It looks like Coral Gables voters will have the final word on whether the city should allow pickup trucks to be parked overnight in residential driveways.
City commissioners tentatively agreed Wednesday to place a referendum on the issue on the November ballot. Commissioners are scheduled to give final approval to the referendum language next month.
At issue is the Gables’ decades-old law prohibiting the overnight parking of pickup trucks on city streets, including private driveways. At the City Commission’s request, the Planning and Zoning Board studied the law earlier this year and recommended several changes — notably to allow noncommercial pickups to park overnight in private driveways provided that they are backed in and the bed is covered. Overnight parking on public streets or swales would still have been prohibited.
Commissioners rejected these changes 3-2, with Maria Anderson and Frank Quesada dissenting.
“I don’t think these vehicles were considered by the original ordinance,” Quesada said, noting that the law dates to 1960 and still treats all pickups as “commercial” vehicles to this day.
Anderson expressed disappointment after the vote. “I think we could have voted it up or down,” she said. “The changes proposed were reasonable and thoughtful. There was a lack of courage here and I’m highly disappointed.”
Earlier in the meeting, Mayor Jim Cason and Vice Mayor William Kerdyk voted to turn the item over to the voters to decide, but that proposal was voted down 3-2. But after the Planning and Zoning Board’s recommendation failed, Quesada brought a motion to reconsider the referendum and it passed 3-2, with Ralph Cabrera and Anderson dissenting.
“When it came down to it, for me, it was a matter of aesthetics and preserving the current ordinance,” Cabrera said. “We spend $250,000 defending it and I was one of the members of that commission. I feel bad for the folks who were here trying to get this changed. They have waited a long time and now we’re giving them another small sliver of hope with this consideration of a referendum, and I’m not sure that’s good. I felt we needed to make a decision today. The commission has been criticized for having a lack of a spine and I was here to make a decision. Whether you like me or not, you know where I stand.”
Cabrera was referring to a lawsuit challenging the validity of the pickup truck rules, which the city won, albeit at considerable expense.
The next planned hearing to vote on whether to accept a referendum is scheduled for July 24 but the commission agreed to meet before then to hash out the language. The questions have to be placed on the November ballot by the end of the business day on July 24.
The lawsuit Cabrera referred to began in 2003 when Lowell Kuvin sued the city after he was cited for parking his 1993 Ford F-150 truck on a residential street. In 2011, the Florida Supreme Court refused to hear Kuvin’s appeal, upholding the city’s law.
Kuvin vowed to fight the referendum language and to submit new questions for the ballot.
“Laws do not prohibit you from driving pickups during the day. Does Coral Gables want to send the message, ‘Keep going past the city if it’s past 7 p.m.’? I’ve yet to see any study showing that allowing pickup trucks have a negative value on property values,” he said.