Battle Ground City Council members agree on compromise in truck parking dispute

The council also declined to ban semi truck parking in residential driveways, so long as they don’t block sidewalks

BATTLE GROUND — After months of debate, or even years, depending on how you look at it, members of the Battle Ground City Council on Monday reached consensus about how to handle commercial vehicle parking in several disputed parts of the city. 

At least for now.

The debate really goes back to 2016, when the city first installed no parking signs along SE Commerce Avenue between SE 9th Street and SE 13th Street. That came in response to neighborhood complaints of parks and RVs often parked for days at a time along the street, a popular walking area for nearby residents.

A no parking sign along SE Commerce Ave near Battle Ground Village. Photo by Chris Brown
A no parking sign along SE Commerce Ave near Battle Ground Village. Photo by Chris Brown

After the City Council failed to approve it, the new signage was removed. The no parking rule remained in effect, but was sparingly enforced.

Following more complaints, the City Council members told staff they would leave enforcement of the issue up to them. The no parking signs went back up in August.

City Manager Erin Erdman explained the signs work to help the city’s limited code enforcement capabilities “without taking as much staff time to enforce.”

With the signs back in place, the trucking community reached out to council members, raising their own concerns.

“When my husband found the parking at the BG Village, we thought, alright here’s a good option for us,” wrote Jenny Topalovic in a letter to the council last month. “It’s still a drive that we had to make at all hours of the day or night but definitely not as far.”

While there are two pay-to-park lots in city limits, a number of truckers testified that space was often unavailable, leaving them to park in Portland or Woodland and then find a ride back to their home.

At Monday’s meeting, the council members approved a rule that will allow commercial trucks to park along streets within industrial zones for up to 48 hours, with 14 days in-between. 

The only council members to vote no were Shane Bowman and Philip Johnson.

Bowman said he had heard feedback from other business owners wondering why they should have to pay for their own parking if private truck operators could simply use city streets for free.

“It wasn’t my intent to have a place to park for people that didn’t want to pay for parking,” Bowman said, “Or don’t want to park their trucks down in Vancouver. I get that it sucks. It sucks to drive to Portland to go to work.”

“I actually had quite a few people reach out to me as well thinking that it’s ridiculous that we’re going to try to dictate who can park where,” countered Councilor Cherish DesRochers. “I think it’s reasonable to have parking in an industrial area that’s not the business’s personal parking spot.”

Tires on the back of an abandoned truck near SE Commerce Ave. in Battle Ground. Photo by Chris Brown
Tires on the back of an abandoned truck near SE Commerce Ave. in Battle Ground. Photo by Chris Brown

Also on Monday, the council rejected a second ordinance that would have made it against city code to park a commercial vehicle in the driveway of a residential home, similar to current rules prohibiting trailers or recreational vehicles parked within the property setback.

That proposal, which was recommended by Bowman, led to a brief sparring match with Councilor DesRochers.

“I think this is stupid,” DesRochers said. “I think people should be able to do what they want with their driveways.”

“There’s reasons why we don’t allow people to park their cars on their front lawn,” responded Bowman. “There’s reasons why we don’t allow derelict vehicles to be parked in the street. These are all standards that we set and codes that we set so that there’s a quality of living, and that brings people or businesses to your city.”

Bowman said he had recently gone around the city noting recreational vehicles parked on dead end streets with power being run to them, as well as semi tractors parked along streets in violation of existing ordinances.

“If we don’t enforce them, then there’s no use in having the laws,” he concluded. “If we’re not going to enforce RVs that are hanging out across the street, then it does no good.”

Erdman noted that city code currently requires vehicles of any type be fully contained within the driveway and not blocking sidewalks, streets, or sightlines.

“There’s already mechanisms in place that can handle situations like this,” added Mayor Adrian Cortes, referring to homeowner’s associations in most neighborhoods. “So I don’t think it’s really the city’s responsibility to go and jump in and try to add an additional layer of authority there.”

Ultimately, even Bowman voted against the rule change, with only Councilor Johnson voting in favor.