Sarasota seeks to stop truck traffic

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Staff directed to undertake more research into how best to deal with through truck traffic on neighborhood streets within the city of Sarasota

A staff plan to create rules forbidding truck in some City of Sarasota has raised City Commission concerns about legal ramifications.

The Commission unanimously approved a Nov. 20 motion by Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie asking City Attorney Robert Fournier and his staff to research other communities’ ordinances regarding truck traffic and questions of the constitutionality of stopping drivers.

City Engineer Alex DavisShaw told the Commission that staff had started working with the Sarasota Police Department on ways to prevent truck traffic in some residential zones.

“Large trucks in neighborhoods cause a lot of concerns,” DavisShaw said at last week’s meeting.

Section 33-53 of the City Code of Ordinances says, “The city engineer is authorized to designate certain streets as truck routes to be used for the expeditious and convenient movement of farm tractors, trailers, semitrailers, trucks and other commercial vehicular traffic, and shall give notice thereof by means of appropriate signs placed along such streets.”

“There isn’t a cohesive definition” of what constitutes a no-through-trucks route, DavisShaw said. Some streets are not marked as being forbidden to through trucks, while those parallel to them are, she pointed out. “It really is a bit confusing.. We want to revise that.”

Staff is proposing to designate specific routes for trucks, including arterial streets and some collectors.

Also, what is a truck creates another conundrum legally.

Currently, any vehicle over 1 ton is considered a truck.

“In terms of enforcement,” Vice Mayor Liz Alpert asked, “how is a police officer going to know if [a truck is] using a [residential street] as a through [route]?” Will an officer “stop … and harass the driver?”

Under the current law, DavisShaw responded, officers follow vehicles to determine a violation.

“It’s going to be a nightmare for enforcement,” Freeland Eddie advised.

“I don’t know how you’re going to convince me that this is going to be enforceable, maybe not even constitutional,” Commissioner Hagen Brody told her.

DavisShaw explained that enforcement would be the issuance of a ticket, similar to a parking ticket.

If someone is detained, Brody told her, that situation is not comparable to the issuance of a parking ticket. The latter, he said, is a non-moving violation.

City Attorney Fournier suggested staff continue working on a draft ordinance and bring it back for discussion before any public hearings.

“Cities do this all over,” Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch said.

The research by staff in the issue will continue.

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