Stephen Barner

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  1. I am on the planning commission of a small town in Vermont, and we are currently rewriting our zoning ordinance. The most extreme, anti-DIY ordinance I have come across is in Sacremento County, California, which requires all home auto repairs which disable the vehicle be completed within 24 hours, which means you couldn't even do a head gasket replacement, if it meant that the head had to go to the machine shop for flattening. If I recall correctly, you also cannot have any unregistered vehicles, which means no classic car restorations or parts vehicles, unless you are a commercial operation. Most towns (and our state law) require someone with more than three unregistered vehicles to register as a salvage yard. This seems inappropriate for those with a few different projects underway, with associated parts cars and extra parts, when they are not actually selling completed vehicles and are not financing their hobby by engaging in significant parts sales. Salvage yards require commercial liability insurance and, increasingly, environmental security bonds that would make the cost of hanging on to a parts car far more expensive than crushing it and trying to source parts from those who live in areas with less restrictive zoning, or the few commercial, classic car salvage yards. If all communities were to adopt and enforce such ordinances, the costs of sourcing old car parts would increase dramatically, while the pool of available parts would equally shrink, as we cleaned out our back yards and sent all the old stuff to the crusher. So, the question is, if we have to have zoning, what might a model ordinance that we could live with look like? One must keep in mind the goals of these ordinances, which are to protect neighbors who might not share our fascination for old cars from living next to what looks like a junkyard, with vehicles that are slowly oozing oil and other fluids into the environment, and which could be a safety hazard for local urchins who might innocently cut their little fingers on broken glass as they kick out the dashboard of your parts car. Does your community have an ordinance that supports the old car hobby, while providing protection for your neighbors? One other request--let's not waste each others' time here by replying with other zoning horror stories, screeds against zoning in general, or recommendations to move to Texas, Montana, or wherever such ordinances don't exist, or are not enforced. Stephen Barner