Rural Code Enforcement

Rural Beautification Through Code Enforcement (November 2016)

 Recent actions proposed by Napa County to implement a new "Neighborhood Improvement Program" have caused some consternation in the Berryessa Highlands. Property owners recently received a letter from the Napa Code Enforcement Division which said:

“The County of Napa Neighborhood Property Improvement Program has been established to assist in beautifying your neighborhood and maintaining home values. Napa County Code Section 1.20.022 was adopted to address basic property maintenance issues within the unincorporated areas of the County.

This Notification is to inform you of matters that may or may not apply to your property and is sent to everyone within the neighborhood so that the entire neighborhood can be involved in making these improvements. The following list of items are some of the items in 1.20.022 which are not permissible under Napa County Code:

·       Weeds and overgrown vegetation.

·       Debris, scrap material, and trash stored in front or side yards.

·       Discarded household appliances stored in the front or side yards.

·       Vehicle parts and tires stored in the front or side yards.

·       Cars, boats, and recreational vehicles parked on unpaved areas or empty parcels.

·       Non-operational vehicles and auto parts stored on property.

·       Any tent type structures within the front and side yards.”

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Everyone understands the problem of health and safety violations or visual nuisances. But the biggest concern for many residents is the item regarding cars, boats, and recreational vehicles. Many residents moved to the Highlands because of its proximity to Lake Berryessa. They wanted to enjoy an outdoor life style. Boats, trailers, and recreational vehicles are an integral component of that lifestyle. The basic problem is where to store them when they are not being used.

The issue is relatively simple and has three cases: 1) parking them on the street; 2) parking them on your home property; and 3) parking them on a vacant lot you own.

The first case is regulated by Title 10.08.080-B of  the County code and enforced by the Sheriff’s Department: “No person shall stop, stand or park any recreational vehicle, including motor homes, mobilehomes, recreational travel trailers or campers, upon any public street within a residentially zoned area in the unincorporated portion of the county for a period longer than seventy-two hours.”

Since the Berryessa Highlands is zoned as a Planned Development District (PD), the second and third cases are regulated by County zoning code Chapter 18.48.

These codes allow property owners to park/store boats, trailers and RVs on their own residential property (driveways, side yard, back yard) if they are on an approved surface (concrete, gravel). However, stored trailers and RVs are not allowed to be lived in - just stored.

The twist here is that the zoning codes do not allow a property owner to store these same types of vehicles on an empty lot they may own. Several Highlands property owners have, unknowingly, specifically purchased empty lots adjacent to or near their primary home for the purpose of storing their vehicles. Now they will be forced to find another place to store their vehicles at more than $50 per month - or sell them. Almost all the storage facilities around the lake are full with waiting lists.

Napa’s Code Enforcement Officers are professionals who wish to help residents solve their code violation problems. Some code enforcement actions are based on complaints from other residents. In a rural area like the Berryessa Highlands people usually take a “live and let live” attitude - unless a problem gets out of hand. A complaint was submitted and County enforcement staff are required to take action.

There is no clear solution to this problem. There may be some action that can be taken at the County zoning level to allow special permits for recreation vehicle storage. Another possibility would be for a property owner who owns an adjacent lot to do a lot merger - turning two quarter acre lots into a single half-acre lot and storing their own boat and/or recreational vehicle behind a solid fence. But as for now, the letter to the property owners concludes:

“The Napa County Code Enforcement Division will be visiting your neighborhood between November 1 through November 10, 2016 to observe and discuss any possible issues that may be on your property or your neighbor's property. If you have any questions or concerns we hope to meet and discuss them with you at that time. If you have any immediate concerns please call 707- 253-4417. Thank you for keeping Napa County a clean and safe place to live.”

pkilkus@gmail.com                       © Peter Kilkus 2017