David and Cassie Dawe have their say regarding possible changes in Oak Lawn’s policies on RVs and boats on people’s property.
Fears that trustees were planning to pass an ordinance making it harder, or even illegal to store most recreational vehicles and boats on residential property brought more than 100 concerned – and sometimes irate -- citizens to Tuesday’s Oak Lawn Village Board meeting.
The meeting room was overflowing for the 7:30 p.m. meeting, and the line of people waiting to sign up to speak extended into the hallway.
Before opening the floor to public comment on the controversial issue, the board moved to table the controversial issue, listed on the agenda as an ordinance “amending certain sections of the Oak Lawn Village Code pertaining to the parking of recreational vehicles on residential property.”
Trustee Mike Carberry (6th) tried to reassure the irate crowd that there was never any intention of voting on the proposed ordinance that night, saying it was only on the agenda as a discussion topic.
But judging by the grumbles in the back of the room, some of the RV and boat owners didn’t believe him.
Carberry said the proposed ordinance had been addressed at the June 4 meeting of the Legislation, Licenses and Ethics Committee that he chairs, and the decision was made then to bring it put it on the agenda for discussion by the full village board.
Other trustees at the committee meeting included Alex Olejniczak (2nd), Bud Stalker (5th) and Terry Vorderer (4th).
Cautioning that it was never intended to be voted on in its current form, Village Attorney Patrick Connelly read the proposed ordinance, which would have imposed fines on residents found in violation, either by not keeping the RVs or boats well-maintained, or out of public view.
Currently, RVs, boats and trailers can be kept on driveways, but the new legislation would have required most to either be shielded from public view by a fence, or those over 20 feet long to be stored in a garage.
Carberry said there had received a few complaints about large RVs or boats either kept in poor condition or so close to the front property line that they create hazards for people walking or driving by.
Many residents who spoke thanked Trustee Bob Streit (3rd) for bringing the issue to their attention. Streit said he noticed it when the agenda was issued on Friday, and sent an email to residents who receive his newsletter.
“You almost got away without public debate. The residents have a right to be heard,” Streit, said.
Olejniczak referred to Streit’s comments and tactics as “grandstanding,” and maintained that the public always has the opportunity to “vet ordinances,” and this would have been no different.
“This is a good discussion,” he added.
Dennis and Cassie Dawe were among the 25 residents who spoke about the issue, and cited the financial hardship the new ordinance would impose on them.
“I’m saddened that I had to learn about this from Trustee Streit,” said Dennis Dawe. “Where is the transparency?”
“We as campers and boaters are already tied to large mortgages (on our vehicle),” said his wife, Cassie. “The financial hardship would be too much for us. I really hope you reconsider this.”
“We have a small pop-up camper and a long driveway. I know there are some eyesores, but ours is licensed and insured. Camping with our children is wonderful. This is the only way we can afford to go on vacation,” said Wendy Cafagna.
Several residents said that they were required to pay for storing their RVs and boats, they would leave Oak Lawn. Others said going after poorly maintained vehicles is understandable, but not all of them.
“My boat costs more than some houses here,” said one man. Others pointed out that larger RVs would be required to be stored in a garage more than 10 feet high, which would require a zoning variance.
“The ordinance was badly written,” said Stalker afterwards, citing one more reason why it was not going to be voted on without more discussion.
“We got an earful,” said Mayor Sandra Bury after hearing all the comments. She encouraged people for and against the proposed ordinance to contact her or their trustee. “We want to hear from you.”
Carberry said he appreciated seeing so many people come to the meeting, and encouraged them to stay engaged, and even run for office.
"Hopefully, they will stay involved. Maybe some will put their names on the ballot." There are no immediate plans to take any action on the proposed ordinance. It may be referred to a committee such as planning and zoning. But Carberry said he liked the idea one resident had of "letting the people decide."
"Maybe putting it to a referendum would be the best way to handle it," he said.