County Council Approves Regulation Of Unhitched Trailers Parked In Public Rights-Of-Ways

Council votes unanimously this evening to adopt an ordinance amending Chapter 38, Definitions; and Article VI, Section 38-367 related to long-term parking of unhitched trailers in the public rights-of-ways.  Photo by Carol A. Clark/

During this evening’s meeting in Council Chambers, Acting Community & Economic Development Director Paul Andrus discusses issues related to unhitched trailers parked in public rights-of-ways around the community. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Staff Report

Council voted unanimously to adopt Los Alamos County Code Ordinance No. 02-260, an ordinance amending Chapter 38, Definitions; and Article VI, Section 38-367,  (related to long-term parking of unhitched trailers in the public rights-of-ways), of the Los Alamos County Code of Ordinances to regulate the parking of unhitched trailers; and further moved that, upon passage, the ordinance be published in summary form.

As directed by Council, the staff of the Los Alamos Police Department, Los Alamos Fire Department, Community Development Department, and County Attorney’s office developed the amended ordinance to address long-term parking of unhitched trailers in the public rights-of-ways.

Current County Code allows unhitched trailers to be parked on public roads, streets, avenues, and highways for periods not to exceed any 24 hour period. County staff has received numerous complaints over the last few years that unhitched trailers would be left unhitched in front of homes and public areas for long periods.

The Los Alamos Police Department, Community Development Department, and the Los Alamos Fire Department have found enforcement of this Code section problematic. As a practical concern, enforcement of the current Code provision generally requires that the Police Department or Code Enforcement officer mark the unhitched trailer tire with chalk and wait 24 hours before issuing a citation. Unless the officer continues to watch the trailer for the entire 24 hour period, an owner could evade enforcement by erasing the chalk marks, moving the trailer some minimal distance ≥ inch by hand or motor, or even claim at court that the owner hitched and then unhitched the trailer while the officer was absent. 

As a public safety concern, parking of unhitched trailers on the public road, street, or highway in addition to being a visual nuisance, creates a public safety hazard as emergency response vehicles have difficulty traversing small or narrow streets where unhitched trailers are located. As many of the County’s streets in certain areas barely meet minimum acceptable width requirements, unhitched trailers present a significant safety concern. Unhitched trailers require significantly more time for an owner to hitch a trailer and move it during an emergency event which subsequently causes increased risk to persons and property.

This Ordinance was drafted to provide the least restrictive means to ensure the public’s continued safety while allowing owners of trailers continued use of their trailers. A trailer owner can continue to use and will not be cited for any trailer that remains attached to an operable vehicle that is then located or parked on a public street. Owners can park their trailer on their property as allowed or authorized by Chapter 16 of the County Code. Owners may also apply for and obtain a license from the County to store their trailer at the County’s storage facility, or utilize one of the privately operated storage facilities that exist in the County.