By Tim Fleischer, Editor-in-Chief
Salado aldermen at their March 15 meeting repealed the 2018 Parking Ordinance that regulated the parking of vehicles in residential front yards and on public streets.
“Why appeal something we just approved?” alderman Michael McDougal asked.
He added that the issue was “hastily put in front of us.”
The issue was brought to the Village by members of Mill Creek Community Association (MCCA) who felt that the deed restrictions on properties in the several subdivisions that comprise Mill Creek lack “teeth” for enforcement.
During the discussion of the repeal, alderman Fred Brown referred to other communities that had homeowners associations that could and would enforce deed restrictions.
Historically, MCCA does not meet the legal definition of a Homeowners’ Association in that membership is voluntary. Homeowners and Property Owners Associations are typically developed as part of a new subdivision and require annual dues from every homeowner/property owner in that subdivision. Those dues are then used for beautification of common and park areas and enforcement of deed restrictions within that subdivision.
Historically, Mill Creek grew over more than four decades as a series of subdivisions, each one with a set of covenants or deed restrictions. While many of the Mill Creek additions adopted the same deed restrictions as the previous subdivisions, this has not always been the case.
With the adoption of the parking ordinance in February, it quickly became apparent to local residents that the Village was injecting itself into property rights conflicts between neighbors and neighborhoods.
The general prohibitions outlined in the since-repealed ordinance stated that “It shall be unlawful for any person to park or to cause, suffer or permit the parking of a vehicle, boat or equipment on any surface that is not an improved surface as defined in this ordinance, within the front or side yard of a singlefamily residence subject to this section. It is presumed the registered owner of the vehicle or equipment is the person who parked, caused, suffered or permitted the vehicle or equipment to be parked in violation of this ordinance.”
It also stated: “b. General Prohibition: It shall be unlawful for any person to park or cause, suffer or permit the parking of a vehicle, boat or equipment on within the rear yard of a lot with a single-family residence unless the vehicle, boat or equipment is located behind a seven (7) foot tall wooden fence. It is presumed the registered owner of the vehicle, boat or equipment is the person who parked, caused, suffered or permitted the vehicle, boat or equipment to be parked in violation of this ordinance. Temporary parking of a recreational vehicle, boat or equipment for the purpose of loading or unloading is permitted but shall not exceed a period of twenty-four (24) consecutive hours.”
The requirement of a seven foot fence was found to be in conflict with existing deed restrictions in Mill Creek which restrict fences above six feet.
Property owners also bemoaned the 24-hour requirement for unloading and loading vehicles.
Aldermen at their March 1 meeting discussed amending the ordinance before Frank Coachman gave a motion to not adopt the amended ordinance and to put the parking ordinance on the March 15 agenda for repeal.
The board voted 3-2 to repeal the ordinance with Amber Preston-Dankert and Fred Brown voted against.
Dankert called the repeal the “second knee jerk reaction” concerning the issue.
She also expressed support of neighborhoods enforcing deed restrictions. “When you bought the house, you signed on the dotted line that you would abide by the convenants,” she said. Property owners refusing to voluntarily abide by those covenants are now “putting neighbor against neighbor.”
When a property owner is in violation of deed restrictions, the owner can be forced through litigation to be in compliance. This is usually done through HOAs or POAs with the funds and legal expertise on hire to enforce those covenants.
The HOAs and POAs act on behalf of the adjacent property owners that are most affected by violations that are considered by the neighborhoods to be nuisances.
According to a 2010 presentation by Marc D. Markel to the Dallas Bar Association, “One purpose of deed restrictions is to protect property values. Violations of deed restrictions most directly affect the value of adjoining lots.”