(The Center Square) – The Spokane Valley City Council on Tuesday approved a new ordinance that limits the number of unlicensed or “junk” vehicles allowed on private properties in residential zones.

During a public comment period, local resident Barb Howard told city officials “something has to be done” about junk vehicles. “They shouldn’t be sitting on our streets with broken windows,” she said.

Reports of so-called nuisance vehicles are among the most frequent complaints heard at city hall, Mayor Pam Haley said later.

On Tuesday, council members received an update from attorney Kelly Konkright following an initial reading of Ordinance 23-019 during an Oct. 24 meeting.

Under the new measure, an “unlicensed vehicle” is one that lacks a valid license plate or expired registration of more than 45 days. Previously, there was no specified limit on the number of such vehicles, operable or not, allowed in residential zones.

Now, the allowed maximum is one unlicensed rig – fenced or screened from view – in such zones. That does not include vehicles in enclosed structures, such as garages, or in designated commercial areas.

Similarly, a maximum of one inoperable or “junk” vehicle, if screened, is now permitted on private property in residential zones R-1 through 4. Again, there are exemptions for vehicles in enclosed structures and commercial areas. And, in deference to shade tree mechanics and auto restoration hobbyists, there’s a time-limited exemption allowing one “parts” vehicle or a vehicle deemed “under repair” on their property.

Previously, the city allowed two junk vehicles on properties zoned R-1, R-2, or R-3.

A junk vehicle is defined as three years old or older, apparently inoperable, exhibiting damage such as broken windshield or missing an engine, transmission, or wheels, and worth only the value of scrap metal. Inoperable golf carts, snowmobiles, and motorized watercraft are included in the definition.

They are considered eyesores and a potential threat to public safety or health.

The registered owner or owner of property on which the offending vehicle is located would be considered the person responsible for a nuisance violation.

Violations would be addressed by a city code enforcement officer with potential civil penalties for confirmed offenses.