New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon has vetoed legislation that would have allowed residents to store inoperable vehicles on their properties for up to 150 days without penalty.
Gordon vetoed the bill on Sept. 5. Council approved the ordinance, sponsored by Councilman George Smiley (D-New Castle), after a 7-6 vote on Aug. 27.
It was Smiley’s latest effort to relax rules he says are overbearing. Gordon vetoed a previous proposal of Smiley’s earlier this year. County code currently makes it illegal for anyone to store an inoperable or unregistered vehicle one one’s property for any period of time, unless it is in an enclosed garage.
Smiley said he believes the law does not give well-meaning residents who may face economic troubles enough flexibility.
“I had been approached by a constituent who had a spouse who had lost [her] job and to save money while they were looking for another job, had canceled their insurance, which required them to turn their tag into [the Department of] Motor Vehicle and thus be in violation of the code,” Smiley said.
Smiley’s legislation called for vehicle owners to be able to request one 120-day temporary county permit for any untagged or inoperable vehicle to be stored on their property, with one 30-day extension available. Only vehicles in good exterior condition would qualify.
But Gordon said he believed the legislation weakened the county’s property maintenance code.
“I vetoed this ordinance because I didn’t want inoperable or unregistered cars just sitting in people’s driveways for up to 150 days,” he said. “We’re trying to enforce County Code, not weaken it. The mission of New Castle County government as a whole is to maintain or enhance quality of life, not dilute it. Therefore, I could not allow this legislation to go into law.”
Opponents on council agreed, expressing concern over a lack of demarcated parking at apartment complexes. Others said it was legislation that would disproportionately hurt lower income communities.
“This dog didn’t hunt for me the first time and it doesn’t hunt for me [this time],” said Councilman Jea Street (D-Wilmington South). “This is a major problem in lower-income areas. It’s a quality of life issue and this would open the door for mischief. You’d have people saying, ‘that’s my mom’s car, that’s my dad’s car, that’s my aunt's car.’”
Smiley, however, said he was just trying to do right by the majority of county residents who mean well and make every attempt to follow the rules.