Cars in the yard could bring fines

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - You could soon get a ticket from the city of Montgomery without even having to leave the comfort of your own home. That's because the capital city is taking steps to improve the city's look.

If you have an automobile in your yard, you may soon see a ticket in your mailbox. The new ordinance is aimed at getting the wheels off the grass and into the driveway where they belong. The new code goes into effect on June 1, 2009. Any car found parked in a yard will be slapped with a $50 dollar fine for each day they are park illegally.

WSFA 12 News talked with numerous residents about the new initiative and found that many are divided on the issue.

The city council is unified in their commitment to clean the streets, though, voting unanimously to pass the new parking ordinance. "I think, I guess, maybe if it's out in front of their house and they can see it they don't have to worry about it," said resident Molly Day. Day is the Neighborhood Association President for the Old Bell Road area. She sees the law as a sign of progress. "It means more immediacy," she said, "When we've had problems before it's taken, sometimes weeks, to get the person's attention."

The code is more strict than a previous ordinance that cracked down only on junk cars and fined the property owner. Now, the rule applies to all cars parked in a resident's yard, regardless of the auto's functioning ability, and the car owner will be ticketed.

City Councilman Charles Smith: "...They will know either the VIN (vehicle identification number) or the tag number. It says you are in violation of city code..." much like a parking ticket.

But not everyone is happy about the beautification project and they're putting the brakes to the idea. "We're in recession and we're all paying our mortgage. So now we're having to pay for a house that we have stipulations on what we can do with the property we pay for," said resident Leslie Ann Rutland. She agrees the ordinance is good for property value, but her husband's car business can create a tight squeeze in the family driveway. They used to be able to park the cars in the yard, something that is now "illegal territory."

What seems like a petty issue to some citizens is a catalyst to city councilman Smith who believes the ordinance will accelerate growth in the capital city. "It's under a premise that if we fix the broken windows, the little things, then the bigger things take care of themselves..." Smith said.

The Housing Code Department will enforce the new code across the city starting on June 1. They will stagger shifts to cover late nights and weekends.

Violators who don't pay the fine may end up in court charged with a misdemeanor.