City set to ban commercial vehicles from neighborhoods

ALBANY -- The Albany city commission tentatively adopted a change to the city's zoning ordinance that would bar large commercial vehicles from parking in residential neighborhoods for extended periods of time.

The proposed ordinance change, which is aimed at keeping heavy trucks from congesting small residential streets, passed on a 6-1 vote at Tuesday's work session. It won't officially become binding until a vote at next week's business meeting.

The measure's only dissenter, Ward 1 Commissioner Jon Howard, said that exceptions offered in the resolution still allowed for commercial trucks in neighborhoods whose streets weren't designed to carry such heavy loads.

"I'm going to vote against it. Most of your residential streets -- curb and gutter and such -- aren't built to support these big buses and other vehicles," Howard said.

Ward 5 Commissioner Bob Langstaff, who raised the issue several months ago, offered a motion to require city staff to amend the language in the ordinance so that school buses -- which are considered commercial vehicles as defined by the zoning department -- be excluded from the provision so long as they are parked in a driveway or behind someone's home.

After being seconded by Ward 6 Commissioner Tommie Postell, newly sworn-in Ward 3 Commissioner Christopher Pike told the commission that requiring bus drivers to park buses at the bus shop or away from home could cause a financial hardship on both the school system and the drivers.

"It's an economic thing for the bus drivers and the school system," he said. "We have no control over the school system, but we want as much money as possible to go into the classroom rather than be burnt up in diesel fuel. And for the drivers, it could mean an extra $30 per week just driving to get the buses. That adds up."

Ultimately, the city adopted the measure with Langstaff's motion to exclude school buses. The resolution would also exclude commercial vehicles parked for less than eight hours, vehicles that are parked in a fully-enclosed structure like a garage and one car, one SUV, one Van or other small- to medium- sized vehicle that has been altered with equipment for commercial use.

Postell said that in his South Albany ward, semi-trailers often park in the streets, making it dangerous for those in the neighborhood to drive down their own streets.

"It's a safety hazard for these people to have to drive around these trucks," Postell said.