Before I get into the nuts and bolts of this editorial, let me tell you a story. Nowadays, towns, cities, et al, are becoming intolerable to car types and our ongoing projects.
For starters, I recently dragged home a project that, truth be told, I will never finish, but it was just too good of a deal to pass up. As with many a skeleton project, there was nothing but a body--no engine, trans, suspension, electrics, interior, well you get the picture. Tech Editor Ceridono had volunteered his truck, trailer, and his hard-earned free time to help me get my "dream" home. All good things must come to an end, so we unloaded the sheetmetal in my driveway and hustled back to work; deadlines are very unforgiving.
Three hours later I receive a call from my wife, Kimi, and she proceeds to tell me the police are investigating the hulk of sheetmetal in our driveway.
Apparently a neighbor called to complain about the blight to the neighborhood sitting outside our house. She continues to inform me that the police aren't (or can't) write me a ticket, but they will turn the matter over to the city's code enforcement officer.
Sure enough, the CEO shows up in the afternoon and tells my wife we have 24 hours to remove the junk (I was offended!) or we would be ticketed, fined, and charged with the expense to remove it. Having had all day to slow simmer my Irish/Italian temper, I was ready to rumble when I got home.
First off, who was the neighbor and where was that CEO? I had rehearsed an ample litany of vocabulary I was primed and ready to spew. The sheetmetal had been in my driveway a matter of a few hours, and I fully intended to place it in my backyard well outside the sight of any neighbor. Apparently not good enough, as I have an "inoperable motor vehicle" that must be dealt with immediately or the proverbial long arm of the law will be pressed into service.
The solution; I explained it isn't a car but rather yard art. Yep, I was going to place it in my front yard and plant shrubs, a tree, and an array of flowers in and around it. I pointed out there was absolutely nothing automotive about the sheetmetal, right down to the absence of any VIN numbers. It was merely art, an expression of my personality I wished to share with the neighborhood in my front yard mixed in with the ever-present terra firma. According to the codes I could find, there isn't an irrefutable passage that would prevent me from doing such a project. I would have to get a permit from the city to perform this landscape project, but it could be done. Since that time, I tucked the sheetmetal behind the fence and out of sight, but this is an experience many of us are being faced with more and more often.
The SEMA Action Network (SAN) is battling this problem in many states on our behalf and is having surprisingly good luck. The following are three examples of what is happening across the country:
Ohio enthusiasts and the SAN stalled consideration of a bill in Ohio that would further restrict the ability of state vehicle hobbyists from maintaining inoperable vehicles on private property. The bill provides authority to townships to remove inoperable vehicles deemed to be "junk," including collector cars, from private property. The Ohio bill, however, makes no concession for even properly maintained project cars.
SAN defeated Illinois legislation (House Bill 4256 and HB 25) that would have further restricted the ability of vehicle hobbyists to maintain inoperable vehicles on private property. HB 4256 threatened to redefine "inoperable motor vehicles" to include vehicles incapable of being driven under their own power for a period of seven days. HB 25 would have effectively required that all inoperable historic vehicles over 25 years of age be stored in a garage or risk a nuisance citation and possible disposal.
The SAN defeated a West Virginia bill that would have redefined "abandoned motor vehicles" to include vehicles or vehicle parts that are either unlicensed or inoperable, or both, are not in an enclosed building, and have remained on private property for more than 30 days.
SAN recommends a model inoperable vehicle bill that would include:
* An explicit provision prohibiting a local area from adopting or implementing an ordinance or land use regulation that prohibits a person from engaging in the activities of an automobile collector in an area zoned by the municipality. * A definition of collector vehicles that includes parts cars.
* A provision allowing an automobile collector to conduct mechanical repairs and modifications to a vehicle on private property.
* A provision mandating that government authorities provide actual notice to the vehicle's last registered owner and provide an opportunity for voluntary compliance prior to confiscation.
* A provision mandating due process of the law (adequate notice, right to hearing, etc.) prior to the removal of a vehicle from private property. There is so much more of which all of us should be aware, and SAN (www.semasan.com) is helping tremendously, but each of us can also do our part. Pay attention to what is going on nationwide, but be particularly vigilant in your own state, county, and city. That's the only way we will continue to enjoy our hobby to the fullest.