Sherman is tightening ordinances regarding junked and inoperable vehicles on properties. The City Council approved new guidelines the limit the number of junked vehicles on properties, among a list of other reforms.


These changes are among the first meaningful updates to the ordinance since it was first enacted in 1991. The ordinance was updated 13 years ago to add definitions to some terms.


"The first thing these changes do is give the ordinance more teeth when dealing with junk vehicles," Assistant City Manager Terrence Steele said Monday.


Steele and other members of city staff said the previous versions of the ordinance contained numerous loopholes and were exceptionally light. This made it difficult for the city to enforce regulations when taking cases to the court.


"This is the latest in a long line of issues that staff have looked at over the course of the last few years under the general umbrella of trying to clean up and trying to do improvements in neighborhoods where perhaps things have gone on too long," Sherman Community and Support Services Manager Nate Strauch said.


Under the previous ordinance, property owners were able to store up to 13 junked and inoperable vehicles on their property. However, the updated version limits this at just one vehicle.


The ordinance also places a penalty ranging from $500 to $2,000 per day that the violation occurs. The responsibility for enforcement will also be transferred from the police department to code enforcement, who have hired an additional worker to handle these cases.


Other portions of the ordinance outline exceptions, including the use of proper screening fencing of junked vehicles that are allowed under the ordinance. Garages and fully indoor spaces are acceptable storage places for vehicles under the ordinance.


Following discussion of the ordinance, multiple members of the council expressed a desire to take the enforcement further than what was proposed.


"We are willing to take the leap if you are willing to take the heat," Steele said.


Council member Pam Howeth presented city staff with a list of multiple properties that had multiple wrecked or inoperable vehicles on site. In some cases, this went beyond the 13 that were allowed under the previous ordinance.


"One of them I went by today and they had 20 junk cars in front of the building this afternoon on my way here. With the other one, I couldn’t count all of the junk cars," she said.


Neighborhood Quality Superintendent Chip Matthews said the next level of enforcement would take the city up to international code, which would prevent property owners from parking any inoperable vehicles on their properties. Additionally, vehicle work would only be allowed in facilities built specifically for that purpose.


"I think ours is a middle of the road approach that gives the citizen the chance to their business before we have to take it to the court," Matthews said, asking the city to give the proposed changes a try before increasing restrictions further.


Mayor David Plyler appeared to agree with this mindset, noting that he does not want to be too over zealous to the point it could hinder hobbyists or those who practice due diligence.


Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.