City of Sparks Considers Changing Neighborhood Rules - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

City of Sparks Considers Changing Neighborhood Rules

The city of Sparks could be changing its neighborhood code policies that are all in an effort to clean up the area.

On Tuesday night, dozens of Sparks residents packed city hall to listen to the proposals and give their thoughts on a number of proposed ordinance codes.

The provisions were proposed after residents complained about some of the things they've seen in their neighborhoods like bare front yards and unkept, vacant homes.

"These are concerns that have been coming to the city for the last several years," said Armando Ornelas, City of Sparks Planner. "Particularly, since the recession, some of it has to do with foreclosed properties, properties that have gone vacant, the landscaping's gone dead. We frankly have property owners who have less economic ability to maintain their properties."

Sparks City Council asked Ornelas and code enforcement officers to look into what they can do to try to clean up the neighborhoods.

"They gave us direction to work on a limited set of code amendments to tackle some of the most common complaints, where right now, maybe the codes don't give us a lot of leverage to do something about it," Ornelas said.

It's all still in the planning stages at this point, but one of the changes would make it a violation to have dead landscaping or exposed dirt in the yard (Proposal: "75% of the front yard is to be covered in living and/or non-living ground covers."). Many people agreed it would be better for their community.

"If you can maintain your house, the people next door should be able to do so also," said Mary Carroll Davis of Sparks. "I'm not saying you have to have the greenest lawn, but some type of xeriscape would be nice. These times are hard, but a little time and effort could be placed into maintaining the yards and maintaining the neighborhoods."

For those who work on their cars outside, they might have to limit their maintenance to minor things like engine-tune ups, oil changes, fluid replacements, brake replacement and tire changes, which Glenn Corey isn't happy with.

"The body work on the vehicle's going to cost $3,500 if I take it somewhere," he said. "Basically, the people that live in this end of Sparks don't make that kind of money."

Another provision would tighten up the rules on leaving old cars or recreational vehicles in the front yard.

"Inoperable vehicles may be stored at a property if:
-In a conforming, completely enclosed structure.
-In a front yard if vehicles are screened from public view with an opaque cover manufactured specifically for the purpose, on a solid surface area and subject to paving limitations (permitted driveways and area between driveway and nearest property line.)
-In rear and side yards if vehicles are screened from public view with an opaque cover manufactured specifically for the purpose, or behind a six foot high opaque fence or comparable landscaping."

"'Recreational vehicle' means boats, other watercrafts, all-terrain vehicles. motorbikes for off-road use, motor homes and camper homes, snowmobiles and similar types of motorized machinery for similar recreational purposes. Recreational vehicle storage:
-In a conforming, completely enclosed structure.
-In front yard the total number of recreational vehicles may not exceed two (2). May only be parked in the driveway and/or the area between the driveway and the nearest side lot line, provided this area is paved.
-In side or rear yard: outside storage of up to two (2) recreational vehicles is permitted in the side or rear yard. Additional recreational vehicles are permitted in side or rear if screened from public view with a six-foot high opaque fence or six-foot high landscaping providing comparable sight obstruction."

Vincent Keller likes to take his RV out to camp, and thinks the proposal is too generic.

"I just wanted to express my concern about if they enforce that rule, it's going to displace a lot of residents who have RV's," he said.

"If you have an RV, you can keep it in your driveway," Ornelas said. "You can keep it potentially in another area of your front yard. You can keep it in the backyard, and so the intent here is not at all to prohibit RV's."

Whether it's banks or other individuals, they're also considering holding property owners responsible for unkept, vacant homes.

"We determine that there is, in fact, a violation of our code," Ornelas said. "Then, we contact the property owner. So, it's the property owner's responsibility to maintain the properties, or to bring them to compliance with the code."

The city of Sparks says if, and when, the changes are final, they'll work with people who may have trouble paying for maintenance.

"If we're working with a property owner, and they're working toward compliance, and they need additional time, typically, we work with them to allow that as long as there's progress," Ornelas said. 

Overall though, many people who came out agree with what the city's trying to do.

"I own a house," Davis said. "My housing value goes down if I have a house next door to me that isn't maintained, that looks like it came out of the dust bowl, and I want to see this city nice."

"I agree with what the city's doing," Keller said. "I like the direction they're going. We certainly want to keep our neighborhood nice, and I'm encouraged that it sounds like the city council and the code enforcement agents are willing to work with the people."

For more information on ALL of the proposed ordinance codes:
http://cityofsparks.us/calendar/2014/05/06/public-workshop-development-new-property-maintenance-standard
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