14 September 2006

New Guide Aids Home Restorers

City and county "junk car" laws have bedeviled hobbyists working on classic cars, kit cars, or hot rods for years.

Forcing them to get rid of project and parts cars and assessing three-figure fines each day until they do, enforce-ment has both led to costly legal action and discouraged new hobby activities.

Because these laws often receive less oversight by either legislators or lobbyists, they can be much more restrictive than the state and federal legislation that gets the most attention.

And each of thousands of localities has its own rules, which commonly become law before hobbyists know about them.  That means it's almost impossible to prevent such legislation by lobbying.

So most at-home hobbyists must deal with laws aimed at trashy properties that also get enforced against responsible good neighbor car enthusiasts.

But, says veteran zoning expert John L. Gann, Jr., of Gann Associates, hobbyists don't just have the choice of hiring a lawyer or shutting down their hobby.

In a new manual, How to Prevent Junk Car Laws from Shutting Down Your Old Car Hobby, Gann details how hobbyists can win over local regulators without costly legal action.

Gann, formerly with Cornell University, has been a consultant for 25 years and a car nut for over 50.  He has prepared ordinances for cities as large as Cleveland as well as for suburbs and rural towns and has gotten hobbyist-friendly rules adopted. He was a member of the hobby advocacy group CARZ and contributed to its newsletter.

"Most clubs could not hire me the way cities do," he explains.  "The new manual offers benefits of my experience in a form affordable to any hobbyist."

Do-It-Yourself Specifics

The 74-page glove box size paperback manual first discloses details about what most hobbyists don't know about how local regulations work.  It reviews who enforces them, how and why they get adopted, and how regulators think. 

Armed with these "Rules of the Road," hobbyists can approach local officials with appeals for relief after (or preferably before) enforcement action is taken.

The second "Start Your Engines" part of the manual offers three avenues to relief and four ways to revise the law to allow hobby activities while still cracking down on junk-strewn properties.

The manual provides specific suggested language for hobbyist-friendly provisions plus a complete set of model regulations with commentary that hobbyists can propose to local officials.

It also covers how to approach regulatory officials, when it's wise to use legal counsel, and where to find local allies who will support hobbyist rights. 

Nine pages detail 12 reasons for relaxing restrictions on hobby activities.  They are also summarized in a one-page tear-out that manual users can copy for distribution to regulators.

"It's not enough to get information on these laws from other hobbyists," says Gann.  "To be effective, car enthusiasts have to know what local regulators know and play by their rules." 

Because it's based on experience preparing regulations and working for cities, Gann says the manual offers the advantage of "insider information" but in everyday language, not legalese.

And since car people don't have time to waste, the manual is organized into cut-to-the-chase sections often only 2-3 pages long with up-front summaries of what each contains.

With a Few Surprises

Because the manual's information is new to most hobbyists, users will find some surprises.

  • Why car hobbyists have three strikes against them in the eyes of regulators--and how that can be overcome
  • Why hobbyists should not rely on getting state laws passed that ban local anti-hobby regulations
  • Why it's not best to wait until you get hit with a violation
  • Why fence screening of hobby cars can be illegal and even unsafe besides being costly to hobbyists

How to Prevent Junk Car Laws is available for $39.95 plus $3.00 S&H from Gann Associates--(800) 762-GANN voice or fax--or from the author at citykid@uwalumni.com. Clubs or suppliers can order in bulk at a savings.

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