Lehigh Valley

Changes coming soon for Allentown RV and camper owners

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Good news may be coming if you're an Allentown resident who owns a recreational vehicle or truck camper.

On Wednesday night, City Council may do away with a requirement that you need to get a permit to load or unload your vehicle on a city street.

You're probably not alone if you're now thinking: "What permit?"

City Council vice president Ray O'Connell said the Allentown Parking Authority, which issues those permits, "only has three or four regular customers. People really don't care about getting a permit to load and unload."

"So you need a permit and nobody's getting a permit?" asked council member Jeanette Eichenwald during a council committee meeting earlier this week.

Council also may vote to allow RVs and campers to be parked on streets for 48 hours to load and unload, rather than the current 24-hour limit. But people who keep them on the street longer can be fined.

However, life may become more complicated for RV and camper owners if a majority of City Council members agree with council president Julio Guridy next week. He thinks the city should start fining people who don't get permits to load and unload.

Right now there are no fees to obtain such permits and no penalties if people do not get permits, said O'Connell.

"The permit makes absolutely no sense," said Eichenwald. "There's no fine involved. It's a hassle for people. It doesn't enhance the quality of anybody's life. And it's unenforceable."

An ordinance proposed for council's consideration originally would have changed the existing law to allow owners to get 48-hour permits, rather than 24-hour permits. That proposal was initiated by RV owners, said O'Connell.

But that proposal was changed during a lengthy discussion at Wednesday night's meeting of council's public works committee, which O'Connell chairs.

He and Eichenwald voted to recommend that City Council do away with permits and simply allow residents 48 hours to have RVs and campers parked on streets.

However, the three-member committee's recommendation to council was not unanimous.

Council member Joe Davis, the third committee member, said 24 hours is enough time to load and unload. "I wouldn't be in favor of extending it to 48 hours."

Davis said there have been problems in the past with people sleeping in RVs parked on streets and RVs sticking too far out into narrow streets. He said if an RV is parked for 48 hours in a neighborhood with a narrow street, 20 or 30 residents soon may be complaining to the city.

He also noted allowing such vehicles to remain on a street for 48 hours could constitute an entire weekend.

Eichenwald initially agreed with Davis to maintain the 24-hour limit. But after listening to residents, she said: "I'm in favor of no permit, 48 hours."

However, she wants the city to retain the ability to fine people who abuse that 48-hour privilege.

The city's original 24-hour limit was imposed on RV/camper parking to stop people from keeping such vehicles in front of their homes for a long time, explained City Clerk Michael Hanlon. He said before that law existed, the city got calls from residents complaining about RVs parked on streets, but it receives few such complaints since the law was passed.

"There's a huge difference between having an RV always parked in front of your property versus loading and unloading an RV," said Eichenwald. "It seems to me you shouldn't require a permit to load and unload an RV."

Addressing his colleagues on the issue, Guridy said: "I advocate we make people get a permit."

"How do you make everyone get a permit –if they play by all the rules except getting the permit?" asked O'Connell.

Said Guridy: "They should get a fine if they don't have a permit and you catch them, because you have no way to know when they parked there."

He continued: "If we have something on the books, we should be able to enforce it. If people are supposed to get a permit and they're not getting a permit, that's a problem. So why have it on the books? I have a big problem with putting laws on the books that we cannot enforce or we do not enforce."

O'Connell said there was an incorrect misunderstanding that RV and camper owners have to pay $50 for a permit: $25 to load to go on vacation and another $25 to unload when they return home.

But he noted the city does have fines for those who violate the current 24-hour limit. Those fines begin at $50 and climb to $100, depending on how quickly they are paid.
O'Connell and Eichenwald want to keep those fines for those who violate their proposed 48-hour limit.
Guridy said the advantage of permits is the city knows when people will park to load or unload. "If you don't have a permit, you should get a fine," he said.

But O'Connell said residents may not want to get permits for home security reasons: they don't want anybody, including people working at the parking authority, to know they are going out of town.

Said Eichenwald: "I wouldn't go get a permit to tell people I'm going on vacation."

Resident Ken Laudenslager, who helped create the original load/unload ordinance several years ago, told the committee its intent was simple: "Without the permit, they're not allowed to be parked on the street."

Laudenslager implored council members to keep the 24-hour time limit. He said there is no reason an RV or camper can't be loaded or unloaded in 24 hours. He also said there's no way he wants someone to park their RV in front of his house for an entire weekend.

But resident Harvey Stahler said housecleaning an RV can't be done in 24 hours.

Stahler, who provided estimates that suggest there may be about 600 RV owners in Allentown, said most owners don't park them in the city because there is no space to store them and too much vandalism.

Resident Tom Hahn also advocated a 48-hour limit, indicating that much time is needed to unload, especially if people return home from a trip on a Sunday night and have to go to work Monday morning.

"We've been camping since 1968 with no ordinance, no permit, no complaints – unless a jealous neighbor or a nosy busybody wants to know your business," said Hahn. "When the rest of the world wants to go on vacation, they don't have to get a permit."

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