Thursday, April 17, 2008

I, Criminal

I got home late(ish) last night to find two pamphlets in my door. Both were from Henrico County's Community Revitalization department, and were left by a neighborhood inspector. One pertained to trucks, trailers, and other commercial vehicles, while the other was dedicated to "inoperable vehicles" and their storage. A handwritten note on the commercial vehicle pamphlet suggested I read the section on trailers and "other pamphlet".
Here's what he was after:
Sec. 24-102. Trailers and trailer parks.
No trailer of any kind shall be parked or stored in any district except as follows:
(2) In any district used for residential purposes, one travel, utility and/or boat trailer, as an accessory use, may be parked or stored in the rear, side yard or in a carport or garage on the same lot with the principal use, provided it shall not be occupied for living or business purposes. The wheels or other transporting devices shall not be removed, except for repairs, nor shall the trailer be connected to any utility service or to the ground or other structure in any manner that would prevent its ready removal.
Cute. The fines for this curiously-defined crime are steep:
Sec. 24-110. Violations and penalties.
Any person who violates any of the provisions of this chapter shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be fined not less than $10.00 and not more than $100.00 if the offense be not willful; or not more than $250.00 if the offense be willful. If the violation is uncorrected at the time of conviction, the court shall order the violator to abate or remedy the violation in compliance with the zoning ordinance, within a time period established by the court. Failure to remove or abate a zoning violation within the specified time period shall constitute a separate misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine or not less than $10.00 nor more than $250.00, and any failure during any succeeding 30-day period shall constitute a separate misdemeanor offense for each 30-day period punishable by a fine of not less than $10.00 nor more than $1,000.00.

As provided in Code of Virginia, § 15.2-2286(A)(4), a notice of violation involving temporary or seasonal commercial uses, parking of commercial trucks in residential zoning districts, or similar short-term, recurring violations may be appealed within ten days. If no appeal has been filed within ten days, the notice shall be deemed final and unappealable.

(Code 1980, § 22-110; Ord. No. 954, § 1, 7-23-97; Ord. No. 1005, § 1, 10-10-00)
So I could be looking at thousands of dollars in fines. But wait: there's that little clause about temporary or seasonal commercial uses, which is exactly what I'm doing. The trailer is out front because it is a seasonal use vehicle. The racing season is in full swing. But ok, sure, whatever: I'll move the trailer into the driveway as soon as the Miata's upgrades / repairs are complete. (I hope it's enough, because I'd hate to see the guy behind us get similarly fined for the big boat parked in his driveway, or the person who owns the little utility trailer around the corner.) Which brings us to the law governing inoperable vehicles:
Sec. 10-3. Inoperable motor vehicles.
(a) Restrictions on inoperable motor vehicles. It shall be unlawful to keep more than one inoperable motor vehicle outside a fully enclosed building or structure on property zoned or used for residential purposes, or any property zoned for, commercial or agricultural purposes. For purposes of this section, "inoperable motor vehicle" means any motor vehicle, trailer or semitrailer, as defined in Code of Virginia, § 46.2-100, which:
(1) Is not in operating condition; or
(2) Does not display valid license plates; or
(3) Does not display an inspection decal that is valid; or
(4) Displays an inspection decal that has been expired for more than 60 days.
(b) Shielding or screening required. One inoperable motor vehicle may be kept outside a fully enclosed building or structure if it is shielded or screened from view. As used in this section, "shielded or screened from view" means not visible to someone standing at ground level from outside of the property on which the subject vehicle is located.
(c) Exceptions. This section shall not apply to a licensed business which is regularly engaged in business as an automobile dealer, salvage dealer or scrap processor.
(d) Enforcement. The director of community revitalization shall enforce this section.
(Ord. No. 922, § 1, 5-22-96; Ord. No. 945, § 1, 5-14-97; Ord. No. 986, § 1, 7-13-99; Ord. No. 1069, § 1, 8-10-04)
State law references: Authority of Henrico County to restrict keeping of inoperable motor vehicles on residential or commercial property, Code of Virginia, § 15.2-905.
Ok, the car runs, and runs very well. It's inspected, licensed, and current for all its immunizations. It's just up on jacks. The race tires we bought for the 2008 season are so soft that they'll get flat spots just from sitting. It's also fairly common practice with race cars to get them off the tires to relax the suspension: no sense wearing out 700 in/lb springs just sitting in the driveway. The tires could be mounted and the car driven in under 10 minutes. Probably 5 minutes.
I have an old set of racing tires that I could (and probably will) mount just for "storage" purposes, but I see no law being broken here.
Granted, I have no intention of re-inspecting the car this year, or for paying to keep the plates on the car, but putting the cover on the car would prevent any of those details from being known. The pamphlet, however, over-steps the legal bounds outlined in the County Code, and adds:
Solid wood fences, walls and dense evergreen plantings of a sufficient height to screen the vehicle, are acceptable methods of shielding of screening when located in side or rear yards. Covering inoperable motor vehicles with tarps or car covers does not meet the requirements of the ordinance.
Yeah, ok, but how the hell are you going to know it's not licensed when there's a cover on it? And wait: where does the authority come from to make that determination? It's not in the code at all!
So now I have a question. What happens when you decide on a beautiful sunny day to change your oil in the driveway? The moment you pull the oil-drain plug, you have an inoperable vehicle. You are a criminal. To get really pedantic and focus on the semantics of the word "inoperable", I'd say even opening the car door makes the car inoperable. Certainly popping the hood, having a flat tire, or checking the oil would qualify. Adding washer fluid. You name it: the moment you place the car into a condition that renders it momentarily undrivable, you have an inoperable vehicle. Part of the reason the car is on jacks is also because we're changing brake pads, rotors, and fluid. Normal standard maintenance, no more or less involved than an oil-change. Criminal.
So here's my plan: I've scoured through the laws, and can't find any reference to it being illegal to store my "inoperable vehicle" on my trailer. I mean, what makes the Miata any different from a lawnmower at that point? So I'm going to just put the old race tires on, drive it up on the trailer, and park the whole rig in the driveway. It sat in the driveway for weeks like that before, and now it can live there. And you'd best believe I'm going to incorporate ahamos racing, LLC to qualify for the seasonal commercial use clause.

After getting all fired up about this crap, I did some more research into the County Code of Henrico. The ice cream man, whom I famously "threatened" by speaking sternly to him while wearing my .45 holstered to my hip, is also a criminal:
Sec. 22-39. Unnecessary noise in operation of vehicle.
(a) Generally. No vehicle shall be loaded with materials likely to create loud noises by striking together, without using every reasonable effort to deaden the noise. The use in, upon or attached to any motor vehicle operating on any street of the county, of any radio, phonograph, musical instrument, bell, whistle, loudspeaker, amplifier or device of any kind whatsoever whereby sound therefrom is cast upon any street to promote or advertise the sale of goods, wares or merchandise, or for the purpose of advertising auction sales, sporting events or other business or things advertised thereby, is prohibited.
I'm actually pretty jazzed about being able to call the cops on this jackass. He only drives down our street when Alastair is napping, and seemingly only when school is open. WTF? Who's buying the ice cream? Is it a front for a drug operation, like we saw in Athens, GA? The ice cream man there used the truck to vend heroin and crack.

Keep your kids away from my house: I'm a big bad criminal.


Anonymous said...

Oh, the trouble you get yourself into when I'm not there to supervise.

Ev said...

I knew it! I knew it! I knew it!
Glad you're finding some trouble, I mean fun, to get into.

ahamos said...

I'm putting the Henrico County Police Department's non-emergency number (804-501-5000) on speed dial. Next time I hear "The Entertainer" from 10 blocks away, I'm calling!

I forgot to mention it, but part of the reason I've enjoyed living in the county, and particularly in a neighborhood without a covenant, is for the relaxed property-use laws. Whodathunk the county would come up with its own neighborhood association?

JamieSmitten said...

You've always looked shifty to me.