A fiery discussion over whether or not to keep what some consider an outdated — and others consider a necessary — Wauwatosa ordinance came to a head during a recent city committee meeting at city hall.

The city's community affairs committee voted in late June to modify current regulations that prohibit parking of commercial vehicles in residential districts. Under the proposed changes, some commercial vehicles would be allowed, although with restrictions.

The original ordinance, passed in 1979, was approved to help preserve and maintain the residential aesthetic of Wauwatosa neighborhoods, City Attorney Alan Kesner has said. Under the current ordinance, if a vehicle carries a commercial or truck registration, weighs more than 5,000 pounds, or has a commercial sign affixed, attached or painted on it, among other things, the property owner could be subject to fines.

Violations can pile up; a first offense carries a $50 fine; $100 for the second; and up to $400 or more for multiple violations. Kesner has said inspections are typically done during the work day, so violations that occur at night can go unreported.

Quality of life?

According to city documents, it's not uncommon for such provisions to be found in local zoning codes, although many communities have passed modifications more recently to accommodate the changing nature of work and employment.

City aldermen were divided on the issue.

'I'm not thrilled that we have to talk about these things because I think generally neighbors get along,' Alderman Matt Stippich said. 'I think there's a need for some greater clarification.'

Former city alderman Bernie Grimm, who was on the council when the ordinance passed, said he feels the ordinance should remain unchanged as it's 'great the way it is.'

Alderwoman Cheryl Berdan, who represents District 7, said she has noticed a number of vehicles parked in her district that would be in violation of the rule. Yet, there has only been one complaint that she's aware of.

'I really think it's not a quality-of-life issue if someone brings their truck home,' she said.

About the changes

Under the proposed ordinance, commercial vehicles would be sorted into three categories. Category 1 wold include smaller commercial vehicles that may have markings, but no external equipment attached. Category 2 would include vehicles with equipment or supplies attached or stored upon the vehicle,, and Category 3 wouild include larger vehicles, such as dump trucks, construction equipment and semi tractors and trailers.

No commercial vehicles may be parked in the front setback of a residential property, under the proposed ordinance. The proposal also provides up to two Category 1 and up to Category 2 vehicles may be stored or parked on a property at any one time. Category 3 vehicles are prohibited at all times.

There are exceptions under the proposal, such as when a commercial vehicle is at a residence temporarily to perform a service, or for those that are parked inside a garage or otherwise not visible.

The ordinance changes will go before the city's plan commission for review in August.

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