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July 06th, 2020

larry koochel city commission presentationLocal citizen and former Mayor Larry Koochel talks to the Liberal City Commission Tuesday evening about some concerns regarding semi truck parking in residential areas in Liberal. Koochel said many people have talked to him about this issue. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


Parking for semi trucks and similar vehicles was among the items discussed by the Liberal City Commission during its most recent meeting Tuesday evening. 

Liberal citizen and former Mayor Larry Koochel brought the matter before the commission, saying there have been many people asking if there is something that can be done, particularly in residential areas.

“When I talk about trucks, I’m talking about Peterbilt, Kenworth, Freightliner – the big boys,” Koochel said. “We have ordinances so there’s a space for about anything that wants to come into town. Three of those ordinances have to do with housing. With R1 residential, the purpose of that ordinance is for it to be a single-family district and it’s supposed to be established for the purpose of a low-density single-family dwelling control. It’s intended that no uses be permitted in this district that will devalue property used for residential purposes or interfere with health, safety, order or general welfare for those residing in the district. Regulations are intended to control density population and provide adequate and open space around buildings and structures in the district to accomplish these purposes. I’ve had a number of concerned people who have contacted me over the past six months or so wondering what can be done about trucks and trailers parked around their houses. I talked with one of my neighbors down the street who told me ‘We moved from the south end of town to the north end to get away from the trucks’ and she’s been there about six months now and there are two trucks now. I’ve also been told these owner-operators do maintenance work on their trucks at their houses and in their driveways like changing the oil and tires and things like that, it’s almost like an open shop around town. And when these trucks are parked in the driveway or in a city street, vision is obstructed and/or reduced, making it very dangerous to drive.”

Koochel also talked about the effects on property values. 

“They devalue the neighborhood by being oversized for the streets as well as excessive engine noise and other noises trucks make,” Koochel said. “I’ve heard a lot of complaints, like in the winter, truckers go to work sometimes really early in the morning, so they start their engines and let them run for hours and hours and hours while people are trying to sleep, and then they run through the gears and everything, so it’s very loud, and single-family households shouldn’t have to put up with something like that. Another problem is trailers and motor homes. We have all types of trailers in town from construction trailers to the smaller single-axle trailers, and those are also parked in the front yard or side yard or in the street outside the home. And all of these make it hard for people to sell their homes because of obstructed vision and street visibility. I heard a lot of complaints about this even when I served as a commissioner. My wife and I made it a point of driving around Great Bend, Dodge City and Garden City, and none of those communities have the trailers and that equipment in their front yards or in the street like we have in Liberal. So I’m wondering if there’s anything that can be done. I don’t understand how those other cities don’t allow this but Liberal does.”

“I’d be interested to find out if it’s a matter of those cities not allowing it, or if they have much less of the population that works as truck drivers,” Liberal Vice Mayor Taylor Harden said. “There are a lot of variables in that equation.”

“I don’t believe we have anything that’s ordinance that prohibits what you’re talking about,” City Attorney Lynn Koehn added. “You’d have to get the count and opinion of the city commissioners in favor to even begin looking at something like that.”

“It’s a very complex issue because in order to properly assess this, we’d have to go to the police department and the Traffic Safety Committee to find out if there’s even been any accidents that are related to the prohibition of being able to have visibility where the trucks are parked,” Harden said. “There’s not really any applicable solution to this in my mind because you’ve approached me about this a few times now, and a big problem is it’s almost targeting the middle-class earning base in town, and we want those people to live and thrive here like everyone else. The only solution I’ve heard of with something like this is setting up an exceedingly expensive option where they created a municipal parking lot and then everyone who had a truck was forced to buy a permit and park their trucks there. But the costs of something like that are absolutely insane and if we even thought of something like that for Liberal, we’d have to encumber more land off the tax rolls in order to create this parking area just for these trucks, and I have a feeling that wouldn’t work at all. There’s just a lot of variables to be considered with something like this because we don’t want to run anybody out of Liberal by imposing a law that forces a middle-class person out of town because they can’t park their truck where they need to. If there was an actual safety issue that can be used as credible evidence to look at something, that would be a different matter. But there’s just a lot of layers of complexity to something like this that really targets a specific group, and that’s something we definitely don’t want to do. I will want to talk to the city managers of the communities you mentioned and see what they have to say about what’s happened in their communities in the past so we have that information, but from everything I’ve seen, there’s no ordinance or statute or anything like that save for the really big metro areas like Wichita or Topeka. I appreciate your presentation and how you showed everything to us, but it’s something you’ve got to be extremely careful about because it’s very tedious and again, it’s very targeted, and we don’t want to run anyone out.”

In other business, the commission approved the creation of an assistant city manager position, which would be a part time, as needed position to perform the duties of the city manager in their absence. The commission also awarded the crack seal bid and chip seal bid, and unanimously approved the project engineering agreement with Earles Engineering for the KC Park & Hike & Bike Trail in the amount of $29,842. The commission also unanimously approved computer hardware upgrades in the amount of $74,521.16 and gave final approval for the demolition of a property at 16 W. 10th Street. 

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