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Oldsmar is making an effort to clean up its image

Next week Oldsmar City Council members are scheduled to take the final vote on an ordinance that takes some Oldsmar-watchers by surprise.

Developed by officials concerned about the city's appearance and image, the ordinance would stop Oldsmar residents from parking boats, motor homes and commercial vehicles in front of their homes.

Oldsmar never used to be such an image-conscious city. But the city now has begun to pave its unpaved streets. There is a new city library, and a new City Hall. There's even a city art gallery.

Now officials tackle the dilemma of unkempt neighborhoods, where driveways are filled with boats or motor homes, streets are used for overflow parking of family cars, vacant lots look like parking lots, and commercial vehicles and disabled cars on blocks are like poxes on the community.

So far the proposed ordinance to clean up those problems hasn't raised the ire of residents. When Largo approved a similar ordinance in 1989, a citizens group challenged it and brought about a referendum. When voters approved it, one resident challenged the law on constitutional grounds, but lost in court.

Most of the major cities in Pinellas County have some kind of law that prevents people from cluttering up their front yards with large or inoperative vehicles. When one resident creates a mess like that, the appearance of a whole neighborhood and property values can be affected. The laws are designed to protect residents from suffering damage because of their neighbors' habits and to improve the visual aesthetics of the city.

Oldsmar officials have recognized the need for such a law in Oldsmar, and have been discussing it for two years. If they approve the ordinance on final reading as scheduled next Tuesday, parking of commercial vehicles in residential areas will be forbidden. In most residentially zoned areas, parking of recreational vehicles or boats will be permitted only in side or back yards.

The number of such vehicles allowed will vary, depending on the size of lots in the zoning district. For example, in an R-2 zoning district, where the lots are about 6,000 square feet, two recreational vehicles or boats will be allowed. But in an R-1 district, where the lots are 3,000 square feet larger, three vehicles may be parked. And in E-1 districts, where properties are essentially one-acre rural lots, there will be no restriction on the number of recreational vehicles and boats.

The ordinance also provides for guests, who may come for a visit in their RVs or bring boats. They may park on residentially zoned lots for up to seven days. And it makes allowances for those who simply can't get a recreational vehicle or boat into their side or back yards no matter how hard they try. Those people may park one vehicle or boat in front of their house.

If the ordinance wins final approval, code enforcement officers will keep an eye out for violators. Residents will be notified of any violations and asked to correct them. If they refuse, the case will go to the city's Code Enforcement Board. If that doesn't bring about compliance, the case would have to be pursued in circuit court.

Oldsmar officials went out on a limb to bring this improvement to the community. We hope residents will recognize it for what it is: an effort to improve the quality of life in Oldsmar by making it a prettier, cleaner and safer place to live.

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