Park City’s anti-idling law unveiled
November 30, 2010
City Hall this week unveiled a draft of a law that would prohibit drivers in Park City from idling their vehicles, a rule that officials see as promoting public health and further advancing the municipality’s environmental efforts.
The law would replace a nonbinding resolution adopted a year ago that encourages people not to leave their vehicles idling. The Park City Council has been supportive of the efforts and is scheduled to discuss the proposed law at a meeting on Thursday. The elected officials, if they want to enact a law, could do so as early as a Dec. 16 meeting.
"This is saying loud and clear we protect our environment," said Diane Foster, who manages City Hall’s environmental programs, describing the move toward a law as being a "big deal."
The law would prohibit drivers from leaving their vehicles idling for longer than three minutes, according to the draft. Staffers have recommended that offenses be civil in nature instead of criminal. A first instance would result in a warning while further ones would carry $100 fines, according to Tyler Poulson, who coordinates the environmental programs.
The elected officials plan to discuss the law starting at 3:40 p.m. on Thursday at the Marsac Building. A hearing is not scheduled, but sometimes public input is taken anyway. A hearing would be held prior to the City Council adopting a law.
The draft calls for a series of exceptions that would allow a driver to leave a vehicle idling for longer than the three minutes. Some of the exceptions include:
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being stuck in traffic
if the outside temperature is below 32 degrees or above 90 degrees
if defrosting the windows is needed
if the engine needs to be running to power equipment
if the vehicle is outfitted with compressed-air brake systems
if there are service animals inside the vehicle
Emergency vehicles would not fall under the law. Vehicles used by emergency personnel like police officers must remain running to power the equipment inside.
The Parking Department would enforce the law, Foster said. Parking officers spend much of their time on Main Street and on Old Town streets that are within permit-only parking zones.
Foster said City Hall has received complaints about taxi drivers idling their vehicles. She acknowledged people might have misgivings about a law being enacted unless they are aware of the exceptions.
In a report to the elected officials issued this week, Foster, Poulson and Michael Kovacs, who is the assistant city manager, said Park City will be the first community in the state to enact a law against idling if the decision is made in December. The report indicated Salt Lake City is also preparing to adopt a law.
The report said efforts already undertaken in Park City to encourage people not to leave their vehicle idling have not been successful. The efforts have included putting up signs and distributing notices.
Mountain communities that have laws against idling on their books include Aspen, Colo., and Ketchum, Idaho, according to research conducted by City Hall staffers. Aspen limits the time vehicles may idle before the driver is ticketed to five minutes while Ketchum sets the limit at three minutes, the research showed. Penalties are especially tough in Aspen, where fines can climb to $1,000, the staffers found.
There have been concerns among officials and activists about deteriorating air quality and the associated threats to public health in the Park City area in recent years. A law prohibiting people from leaving vehicles idling has been of interest to them for some time.