Psssst! I want to let you in on a little secret in St. Peters.
Since March, you can park a trailer in front of your house — not on the street but on your property — for as long as you want.
I know this because a month ago a St. Peters woman called me to complain that a neighbor regularly parked his trailer on the grass of his front yard. She told me she talked to police and an officer told her nothing could be done because the city ordinance had changed and there were now two ordinances saying different things.
I looked into it and she's right. During the summer city officials spent much time discussing where trailers can be parked. But it seemed like the more they talked the thornier the issue became.
In June, for example, a lengthy workshop discussion concluded with this exchange:
"Is this over with?" Mayor Len Pagano asked.
"I don't know, but I certainly hope so," replied Jerry Hollingsworth, a Ward 2 alderman.
Some consider trailers in the driveway an eyesore; others want the freedom to park them there.
The zoning code was changed in March to allow trailers on residential property during active home-improvement projects. The code previously allowed only Dumpsters. An active project is limited to 45 days and does not include new-home construction.
But already on the books was an ordinance restricting trailers to paved surfaces behind the front line of the home. They could not be on driveways or anywhere else in front of the home — except for boat trailers, which are allowed on driveways 10 days a year so owners can service their boats.
So one city law states you can park a trailer on a driveway or front yard for up to 45 days, during a home-improvement project, and another city law states you can't park them there at all.
According to Keith McNames, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, the impetus for change came from residents who thought it unfair that you could put a Dumpster on your driveway for 45 days for debris and yet not use a trailer for that.
After the March change, the police department pointed out the conflict and asked: Do we or don't we ticket someone who parks a trailer in a front driveway?
"It puts us in a little bit of an awkward position," says Maj. Jeff Finkelstein.
The police, he says, don't want to be in a position where they must track the length of home-improvement projects.
Already, Finkelstein says, a handful of residents are manipulating the change by coming up with one active project after another to keep parking their trailer in their driveway.
"We could track that 45 days and at 46 days the trailer has to be moved," he says. "And the person could say, 'Oh well, I am doing this other project now.' And that is what a couple of people have chosen to do. And it's just not fair."
So Finkelstein, Ward 3 Alderman Tommy Roberts and Julie Powers, the city's director of planning and community development, worked on a solution. Which was this:
Residents can have a trailer, any trailer, parked on the front of their property for up to 10 days per calendar year for any reason. It's not 45 days, but it would be 10 more than were allowed prior to the March change.
But back at that June work session Ward 1 Alderman Dave Thomas pointed out a 10-day limit per year could restrict a resident from having a commercial roofer, for example, keep a trailer in the driveway for more than 10 days.
First, Police Chief Tom Bishop responded, most businesses don't keep trailers on-site overnight because of theft. Second, he says, commercial work isn't what residents complain about; they complain about homeowners who park their own trailers on front driveways or in front yards for weeks, or months, or even years.
Thomas replied it doesn't matter what the intent of the law is. The compromise, as worded, could apply to commercial trailers.
Thomas preferred that residents have the option of multiple 10-day city trailer permits for several projects during a year.
Same problem, Bishop says. "Somebody can start the project today, work on it one day, they leave it there for nine. Two weeks from now they decide to start another project, work on it for a day because they brought a board home. That gives them another nine days. And they do that through the entire summer so they can keep their trailer in the driveway."
The proposed fix went back to planning and zoning for review and planners said, nope, don't like it: Let's keep it at 45 days.
Without a King Solomon in the city the issue remains unresolved and police don't ticket.
On Monday, Roberts told me, "I guess when the residents start calling and raising Cain about trailers being parked in driveways for a certain amount of time is when we'll hear about it."