Trucking community in Battle Ground upset with the city over street parking

Some truckers say they’ve been forced to park on city streets due to hours restrictions and lack of space at two lots in the city

BATTLE GROUND — A long-simmering dispute between the Battle Ground trucking community and the city could come to a boil after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Since 2016, city staff and Battle Ground City Council have struggled to figure out a workable solution for how to clean up large vehicles parking along public streets, and still make allowances for semi-truck owner-operators who often struggle to find a place to park their rigs.

Battle Ground City Councilors are hearing from angry members of the trucking community after prohibiting parking along SE Commerce Ave. Photo by Chris Brown
Battle Ground City Councilors are hearing from angry members of the trucking community after prohibiting parking along SE Commerce Ave. Photo by Chris Brown

First, a bit of history.

In July 2016, the City Council approved an ordinance limiting long-term parking for vehicles weighing over 14,000 pounds gross weight, or any semi tractors in public right-of-ways. 

In response, the city installed no parking signs along the west side of Commerce Avenue, from SE 9th Street to SE 13th Street.

Later that year, the parking issue came before the City Council, which failed to approve the new signage, so they were removed, though the no-parking ordinance remained in effect. 

A staff report notes that the city continued to receive complaints about trucks parking along the road in violation of that ordinance, with complaints picking up in intensity earlier this year.

A derelict truck sits along SE 17th Street, east of Commerce Ave. in Battle Ground. Photo by Chris Brown
A derelict truck sits along SE 17th Street, east of Commerce Ave. in Battle Ground. Photo by Chris Brown

In July of this year, the members of City Council declined to take up the issue, saying the matter would be “left to administration to determine what tools they would like to use.”

That direction led code enforcement to re-install the no parking signs, which they did the week of Aug. 24.

“With limited resources in code enforcement the placement of signage is a tool that can assist with gaining compliance without taking as much staff time to enforce,” wrote City Manager Erin Erdman in a report to the council. “It was the belief of staff that this was consistent with the direction given by council during the July 20, 2020 meeting.”

Once the signs went back up, however, council members started receiving numerous complaints from members of the trucking community.

Shiela Rae Miller’s husband owns his own rig and drives for a living. She says most of the people they know who live in their trucks for long periods of time keep things tidy.

“I don’t think the garbage along Commerce is a majority of the semi truck drivers,” Miller told the council during the Nov. 16 meeting. “I do believe it has to do with all the broken down vehicles and all the homeless stuff.”

Joni Mcinroy, another wife of a truck driver, said his being unable to park in town leaves her packing up their three children to pick up her husband in Portland, or further north on I-5.

“Sometimes it is not safe in the winter months and bundling up children and placing each one in their car seats is rough at a crazy hour of the night or early morning,” Mcinroy said in emailed testimony read Monday. “It has truly been a blessing to be able to park in our little town.”

Jenny Topalovic told a similar story, noting that the few times her husband tried to park near their home neighbors reported them to code enforcement.

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

A semi trailer is left parked along SE Commerce Ave in Battle Ground. Photo by Chris Brown
A semi trailer is left parked along SE Commerce Ave in Battle Ground. Photo by Chris Brown

With that area off limits, Topalovic said they’ve been pushed to spend $200 a month for a spot to park their truck.

Others noted that truckers, by law, are limited on how many hours consecutively they can drive before stopping for at least 34 hours. 

“Many times when a truck driver has made their delivery, they have no more hours left to drive,” said Topalovic, “so the option of traveling back down to I-5 to stay at the rest area is not an option.”

Trucker Bill Sigman added that a typical day for him is already between 11 and 14 hours.

“I would have to travel from here to Portland to pick up my work truck, that can be another hour,” Sigma told the council. “Add on another two hours (to get my truck ready to go), and we’re looking at 16 hours a day.”

Following a Sept. 21 discussion, staff returned with three options for council members to consider. 

Option three, which was selected for further discussion, would prohibit semi trucks on all public right-of-ways, with the exception of industrial areas. Trucks could park there for up to 48 hours, but couldn’t re-park in a zone after that for 14 days.

It’s unclear, at this point, which way the council could go.

Erdman noted that most other cities within Clark County already have rules prohibiting large commercial or recreational vehicles from parking along public right-of-ways, or along residential streets. 

Philip Johnson indicated that even the 48 hour limitation could eventually need to be revisited as more businesses move into vacant land along Commerce. He also noted the city has tried not to compete against private business, such as the two truck parking facilities in town.

“I understand it’s $200,” Johnson added. “I, too, have a small business with costs that I eat.”

Shane Bowman also noted that his business requires that he pay for storage from a facility.

“It costs me $350 a month to store some of my equipment for work,” said Bowman, who added he would support the ability for truckers to park temporarily in some areas.

The council is also considering whether to revisit parking regulations on residential streets, which currently allow a tractor trailer to be parked in a driveway, so long as it doesn’t restrict sidewalk or street traffic.

“I have nothing against truckers,” Bowman said. “I understand what it’s like to park these things and where to park them and all that stuff.”

Still, he said if a neighbor pulled a semi-tractor trailer into their driveway in a crowded residential area, he would have a problem with it.

“We live in the city because we have ordinances, we have codes,” said Bowman. “You can go out in the country and you can see a wrecking yard and a bunch of trash cars and garbage piled up right next to a million-and-a-half dollar home. It’s because they have different rules.”

Ultimately, the council decided to bring the parking ordinance back at a later meeting, while also considering whether residential parking rules also need to be further restricted.

“It’s not for us to provide long term parking for you,” said Bowman. “We’ve got two places in town to do that. And I understand it sucks to pay it. Just like it sucks for me to pay for my unit that I have to store stuff in.”