The Bend City Council gave preliminary approval Wednesday to shorten the time a vehicle could be parked on city streets from five days down to three business days.

Changing the time limit was proposed by the Bend Police Department as a way to address the increase in complaints the city has received about vehicles being parked for long periods on residential and commercial streets.

“Every area is different,” Bend Police Lt. Clint Burleigh told the council on Wednesday. “If somebody parks their car for 16 days, in some neighborhoods, that means someone can’t park in front of their house.”

Going to business days instead of calendar days will help the department respond to abandoned vehicle calls more efficiently, said Bend Police Department community liaison Misha Knea. The program that currently follows up on parking complaints is staffed by volunteers who don’t work on weekends.

About six to 10 volunteers are responding to 20 to 40 complaints a day.

“It’s really imperative we do this operation around what our volunteers can handle,” Burleigh said.

But some on the council questioned what problem changing the counting method would solve.

Councilor Barb Campbell voted against the proposal, arguing people can still park before or on the weekend and still park for five days.

“I don’t see that we’re doing anything at all other than changing how we count five days,” Campbell said. “I just don’t see this is worth changing code for. I think if you’re going to do it, it should just be days.”

Campbell also said she believes it does not address the heart of the issue: It can take up to two weeks from the time someone calls in a complaint to when a vehicle gets towed.

Councilor Bill Moseley, who also voted against the proposal, understood that volunteers can’t enforce on weekends, but feels that operational challenges shouldn’t drive policy.

“There are advantages to symbolism,” Moseley said. “We need to send a message that we are doing something.”

Otherwise, councilors were supportive of the ordinance change.

“I think it’s easier for people to understand,” Mayor Sally Russell said after the meeting. “I think it matches expectations of what can happen with the capacity of our volunteers. I think from my perspective it prevents some of the unintentional actions that might have happened for people who left on a three day weekend.”

The ordinance will have a second reading in two weeks.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, bvisser@bendbulletin.com

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