Three local owner-operators are suing the city of
North Charleston, SC, to overturn an ordinance that keeps them from parking
their rigs at home.
In the nine-page complaint,
OOIDA members Essau Bowens and William Brown and fellow owner-operator Richmond
parking their trucks at their homes does not cause a “detriment to public
health, safety or welfare.” In fact, the truckers say the parking ban will
cause them to "suffer irreparable harm, damage and injury” and are asking
the court to enjoin North Charleston from enforcing the parking ordinance.
A previous ordinance allowed tractor parking as an
accessory use of property, but the new ordinance bans commercial truck parking
in residential areas.
"The law allowed
them to park their trucks there beforehand,” Brandt Shelbourne, attorney
for the truckers,
argues. “As a
result, they should continue to have that right. All we want is for these guys
to have the right to park their trucks. It’s like telling someone who has lived
in a green house for 20 years that now all houses on their block must be
Shelbourne told Land
Line he won a similar case in Berkley County, which borders North Charleston
County, based on the argument of “non-conforming use.” This argument basically
says if the property was being used a certain way before a new ordinance
restricts that use, then the non-conforming use would be allowed as
Until the case is settled, the truckers must park
elsewhere and hope their trucks are safe, says Brown. He currently parks his
truck at his brother’s home about three miles away in the country and drives
his old pickup home.
“It’s inconvenient,” Brown said, in his Jamaican-like
accent. “But what we gonna do?”
The city claims it has met its obligations to the
truckers by giving them a six-month grace period from the time the ordinance
passed in November 2002 until it took effect in June 2003.
Deputy City Attorney Derk Van Raalte told The Charleston Post and Courier, "Cities
are expressly and statutorily empowered to regulate land use. That is all
the city has done here."
Under the ordinance, any truck weighing more than 5
tons, having more than two axles, or standing more than 8 feet tall is banned
from residential areas. Trailers were banned already. The ordinance does not
apply to recreational vehicles – the city council added the RV provision at the
The ordinance claims heavy commercial vehicles
create a “visual blight” in residential areas, cause physical damage to the
streets, reduce property values and “the character of property,” and increase
traffic congestion. Additionally, the ordinance says the parking ban on
commercial trucks would protect children from traffic injuries.
For parking their rigs at home, truckers could face
a $500 fine or up to 30 days in jail, with violations for each day the truck
remains illegally parked. The city has issued more than 140 warning tickets and
more than 40 court summonses since the ordinance went into effect in June.
The woman behind the ordinance is City Councilwoman
Phoebe Miller, according to The Post and
Undeterred by the lawsuit,
Miller told the local
newspaper, "I love the truck drivers and the job they do, but I don't want
them to park their trucks in my neighborhood."
--by René Tankersley,
René Tankersley can be