COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (The Gazette) - Colorado Springs police issued their first tickets recently under an ordinance that expanded a street parking ban for recreational vehicles to the entire city.
Officers have issued at least eight tickets since enforcement of the ordinance began June 1, said Lt. Jim Sokolik, a Colorado Springs police spokesman.
At least half of those tickets were issued to repeat offenders, and most were issued along Sawatch and Sierra Madre streets in the CityGate area, the future home of a new Switchbacks soccer stadium as part of the City for Champions initiative.
About a dozen owners living in their RVs had congregated there in recent months, taking advantage of the area’s free parking. Local RV parks have been full lately and most allow only newer RVs, those built after 2000.
Most of the RVs parked in violation of the new ordinance are much older, and many of their owners could not afford the monthly fee charged by parks.
Opponents of the ordinance feared it could exacerbate homelessness in the city because the affected RV owners were low income and did not have a house or apartment.
Already, parking RVs in residential areas of the city was illegal for longer than “the expeditious loading and unloading of passengers or property.” The new ordinance extended that ban to commercial and industrial areas.
City Council passed the expanded ban 8-1 in March amid concerns that RVs were clogging some downtown streets, and that some people were littering on roadways and dumping waste down storm drains.
The fine for a first offense is $25; the second, $100; and the third, $125. Four tickets requires a court appearance. Enforcement of the ordinance was delayed for two months to allow RV owners time to prepare.
But as the ordinance took effect June 1, many RV owners were left with two choices: flee town or risk tickets and the impounding of their homes.
Several of the remaining RV owners were elderly and disabled — some facing heart disease, lung disease, severe mental illness and cancer.
Since June 1, police have responded to 71 calls regarding illegally parked RVs. In most cases, officers gave RV owners a verbal warning or warning stickers were tagged to the vehicle, Sokolik said.
Two of the tickets were for a second infraction and two others were for a third.
The ticket count only included calls during which officers specifically responded to an illegally parked RV — meaning more could have been issued over the last two weeks.
“Our idea is to get people into a better living situation and assist them in not breaking the law,” said Lt. Mike Lux, who oversees the Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team. He was not aware of RVs being impounded.
Even so, outreach workers with the nonprofit Ecumenical Social Ministries said several RV owners are still scrambling to avoid tickets, said Ann Lantz, the nonprofit’s executive director.
“That’s what the ordinance was set up to do,” Lantz said. “These are the people who can least afford these tickets. We would certainly be willing to talk with them and to see if there’s anything we can do to help them. But this is the reality we have now.”
At least one person has stepped forward to provide land east of town in unincorporated El Paso County for some RVs, said Leigh Allen, an outreach worker for the nonprofit. But several RV owners still remain in the city — finding new places to park every day, sometimes in business parking lots, to avoid a ticket.
“They’re moving around — that’s their only option right now,” Allen said.