Janesville35°

Overnight parking at Wal-Mart banned

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
December 18, 2007
— A driver passing by the Wal-Mart Supercenter early on a recent morning noticed a recreational vehicle in the parking lot near Interstate 39/90 and Highway 26.

It was parked with its satellite dish up.


Contact with the owner confirmed that the traveler had spent the night in the lot.


That violates the conditional-use permit approved by the plan commission when it OK'd Wal-Mart's site plan before it opened a year ago.


Gale Price, the city's building and development services manager, said the city has received a couple of complaints about overnight camping since Wal-Mart opened.


"We are coordinating enforcement with the police department regarding that," Price said.


The property is posted and warns travelers against spending the night. The store is open 24 hours, so that might make it more difficult to spot overnighters.


Price said it's sometimes clear that the RVs are spending the night when they have their sides down or their satellites up. Otherwise, it can be harder to tell.


The problem is that Wal-Mart nationally promotes its parking lots as overnight sites for campers with only a handful in the country prohibiting the practice, Price said.


"Ultimately, it's Wal-Mart's responsibility to run them off," Price said.


"If they're not doing it, that's an issue."


Police also can issue tickets, Price said. The fine for violating the ordinance is $502.


The store manager, contacted Monday, declined to comment for this story.


Price said overnight parking hasn't been a huge problem.


"But, if it becomes a huge problem, we'll start issuing citations to Wal-Mart," Price said.


"They gotta keep the campers out."


The prohibition was included in the conditional-use permit because overnight camping was a concern of the neighbors.


"There's a certain level of tackiness involved with having people camping in the parking lot and pulling out the grill," Price said.


Also, Price had experience with campers dumping their waste in the storm sewer of the Wal-Mart parking lot when he worked for a city in Illinois.


The Wal-Mart store here is zoned B4, and camping is not allowed in that zoning.


People who suspect overnight camping can call the police's non-emergency number at (608) 757-2244.



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