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Old 03-18-2023, 10:01 AM   #1
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Living in a School Bus. Is it Legal?

Ames Tribune
www.amestrib.com/a-person-has-been-living-in-a-school-bus-in-ames-for-weeks-is-it-legal


A person has been living in a school bus in Ames for weeks. Is it legal?
Teresa Kay Albertson
Published March 16, 2023




Ames, Iowa - A school bus converted into a home that has been parked in Ames for several months has drawn complaints from neighbors and possible changes to city law.

Ames City Council documents say several residents have complained about the bus, which appears to have a woman with one or more animals living inside. Reports say it has been parked near the 1000 block of North Third and North Fourth streets and the far eastern end of Northwestern Avenue near Wheatsfield Co-op Grocery.

The council addressed the issue at its meeting Tuesday. There's nothing in city code that would prevent someone from living in a retrofitted bus on city streets, besides an ordinance that requires parked vehicles be moved every 48 hours.



After a lengthy discussion in which the city went over complaints and potential options, council member Tim Gartin made a motion that directed staff to come up with options to limit the size of vehicles parked on city streets.

"I don't like the idea of us forming a statute based on one resident sort of forcing our hand," Gartin said. "But ultimately, I'm not sure that we have a choice. We have a duty to our residents to make sure that they can reasonably enjoy the investment they have made that affects their quality of life. I think this is a reasonable step and one that is enforceable."

In a rare event, the vote tied. Council members Gartin, Gloria Betcher and Amber Corrieri voted yes to the motion and council members Anita Rollins, Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen and Rachel Junck voted no. Mayor John Haila broke the tie with a yes vote.

In addition, the council unanimously voted to approve Betcher's motion that staff consider action related to potential safety issues with the bus, including what's believed to be a wood-burning stove and a ferret living inside.



A person inside the bus did not answer the door Tuesday and has not responded to a request from the Ames Tribune for an interview.

Some neighbors don't mind, others want it gone
Ames resident Doug Foley has called and emailed City Council members for more than a month about the bus parked near his home, according to the council documents.



"There is laundry and trash around the area," Gartin said in an email to City Manager Steve Schainker on Feb. 13 about a phone call he received from Foley. "Doug believes there may be homeless people who sometimes stay in the bus. He is concerned that it is an eyesore and public health concern."

Doug and Jean Foley submitted photos of personal effects piled up around the bus, including a mattress, clothing, full garbage bags and a jogging stroller.



Some residents on Third Street told the Tribune they do not want to keep seeing the bus. Ben Visser, a real estate agent, said he fears others may follow suit if the city continues to allow it. Melissa Stenstrom said the wood burning stove bothers her sinuses and allergies. She suggested the city come up with a place for vehicles like this to park.

Greta Anderson said she commends the bus owner's "desire to use few resources" and recognizes the trend of living in small or alternative homes.

"But this is kind of an open defiance of our neighborhood's wishes," Anderson said. "Our neighborhood has been invaded and it's like being in a war zone with this bus here. It has an apocalyptical feeling."



Meanwhile, some neighbors aren't opposed to it. Samantha Ward, who lives on Northwestern Avenue, said though she finds it "a little odd" she isn't complaining.

"It hasn't been an issue except for when she left an axe out behind her bus one day," she said. "It doesn't bother me or affect my living in any way, but we do have a lot of traffic along this street."

Lisa Leibich doesn't mind it, either. "My son loves buses and seeing it makes him very happy," she said. "I don't know her story, but it's not easy in the winter. I saw her chopping wood one day during a snowstorm. But I feel like she isn't ruining my life or causing me any concern. I just hope people are nice to her."

One neighbor on the street said she doesn't mind at all, except when the bus is parked across from her driveway. In that case, it makes it hard to maneuver in and out.



Ames city ordinances allow the bus to park on city streets with few restrictions
City parking ordinances do not prevent recreational vehicles from being parked on the streets, other than a boat. There are some restrictions, though, including that vehicles cannot park in any one location for more than 48 hours; a detached semi-tractor trailer of any kind may not be parked on any street; and vehicles cannot block intersection or crosswalks.

In the case of the 48-hour street parking restriction, when residents complain about a vehicle parked in a residential neighborhood, the city will mark the tire and place a notification on the vehicle. As long as the vehicle is moved a few feet forward or backward every 48 hours, the owner of the vehicle will not be ticketed.



City Attorney Mark Lambert prepared a memo for the City Council meeting Tuesday that outlines some of its options regarding long-term parking of vehicles with people living in them. They include an outright ban on using a vehicle for human habitation while the vehicle is parked on city streets, prohibiting people from sleeping in vehicles parked on city streets overnight, or preventing vehicles over a certain size from parking on city streets.

www.amestrib.com/a-person-has-been-living-in-a-school-bus-in-ames-for-weeks-is-it-legal

However, Lambert said, community ordinances around the country related to human habitation and/or sleeping in vehicles have not withstood constitutional challenges.

Staff and council agreed this is not a frequent problem or an ongoing problem. Lambert said he could only think of one relatively similar situation many years ago.



Some council members voiced reluctance to create a new ordinance to solve one problem that involves one person and one vehicle.

"To borrow a phrase from Tim (Gartin), I think this is a solution in search of a problem. I don't see it as a big problem," Beatty-Hansen said. "I think we've gotten a few complaints about it in an individual case. I don't think this needs any fixing."

Junck said she wasn't interested in any action that would ban living or sleeping in vehicles.

"Having worked with the school district, there are a number of families who are homeless," Rollins said. "The idea of criminalizing them because they don't have adequate resources, I'm concerned."

But she said she'd be open to an ordinance that addresses the health and safety for people living in vehicles. Betcher agreed that the issues of safety and health are on her mind.



Staff and council's safety concerns focus on a wood-burning stove inside the bus that might be sitting above the vehicle's gas tank. Council members also raised concerns about an animal that seems to be living inside the bus and the personal belongings and refuse piled up outside of the vehicle.



Ames Police Chief Geoff Huff said officers and the inspection department have visited the bus and the occupant regarding the refuse left outside. They helped the person carry items inside, he said.

The City Council is expected to revisit the issue in the coming weeks.

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Old 03-18-2023, 02:08 PM   #2
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to me the big Kicker is "laundry and trash" "mattress and axe" which sounds like the inhabitants of the bus are living some sort of disarray.. if it were simply a bus parked (that moved once in a while).. and was kept nice and clean and around it.. that the residents wouldnt have such an issue..



that said, theres always going to be someone who complains.. theres a lady in my nrighborhood that complains about a trucker that lives aroudn the corner bringing his rig home and parking it in his driveway.. (a bobtail tractor that even clears the sidewalk).. so some people are just whiners



but keeping clean is key... complaining about the smoke from a wood fire is just being whiney.. after all lots of people living in neighborhoods have wood fires in fireplaces, fire-pits, etc...
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Old 03-18-2023, 02:50 PM   #3
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Haha it's Ames IA. I'd expect nothing less over there.

There's a difference between legally parking on a public steet and being a nuisance. The lady complaining about the wood burning stove and her sinuses is a little too Karen for me. The neighbors who don't want a full blown campsite on their front yard with tools, trash, and everything else have a legitimate complaint.
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Old 03-19-2023, 09:01 AM   #4
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Haha it's Ames IA. I'd expect nothing less over there.

There's a difference between legally parking on a public steet and being a nuisance. The lady complaining about the wood burning stove and her sinuses is a little too Karen for me. The neighbors who don't want a full blown campsite on their front yard with tools, trash, and everything else have a legitimate complaint.
yea this is pretty on spot. i lived there and its a strange town.
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Old 03-19-2023, 05:57 PM   #5
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if it were simply a bus parked (that moved once in a while).. and was kept nice and clean and around it.. that the residents wouldnt have such an issue..

Sadly I don't think people wouldn't still complain about it. I've got my skoolie parked here in PDX on my street and I've been getting all kinds of complaints from neighbors about it. There's no mess around the bus, no piles of garbage. When I work on the bus my workspace is inside the bus, and when I bring garbage out I put it in my residential trash can. Still, they're threatening to start calling the police on my every day if they see it out there again.
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Old 03-19-2023, 06:35 PM   #6
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After I moved to Davenport the landlord said it would be ok in my paved driveway but after a few years someone complained and the city said I had to park it in the back yard in the mud and grass.
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Old 03-19-2023, 06:56 PM   #7
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This is bad optics for skoolie folks.

The 'homeless in a dilapidated bus' folks ruin it for the rest of us. I'd call the sheriff immediately if that was camped out in front of my house.

When you travel or full-time you represent more than yourself, and have to respect the locals by not lowering their quality of life.
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Old 03-19-2023, 10:33 PM   #8
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Some years back there was a problem in Santa Cruz County with a person who had a business of hauling trash in beat up pickup trucks that he parked all around the county and in the city of Santa Cruz. They had signs on each side of then advertising his service. When he parked them in expensive neighborhoods this angered folks who wanted them gone. As a result, Santa Cruz made it illegal for vehicles over six feet tall to be parked on public streets. As a result I got a parking ticket on my "old Crown". I did not leave it on the street for days, just one night after working on it at my son's shop in Santa Cruz.
I would hope that the individual discussed in this thread cleans up their mess and finds a better place to park.
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Old 03-20-2023, 07:08 AM   #9
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This is bad optics for skoolie folks.

The 'homeless in a dilapidated bus' folks ruin it for the rest of us. I'd call the sheriff immediately if that was camped out in front of my house.

When you travel or full-time you represent more than yourself, and have to respect the locals by not lowering their quality of life.

Yeah, I'm of the same mindset. When we lived in the suburbs we didn't even like other cars parked in front of our house. It's like, "park in front of your own house, let me park in front of mine, Bub!"
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Old 03-20-2023, 09:43 AM   #10
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to me the big Kicker is "laundry and trash" "mattress and axe" which sounds like the inhabitants of the bus are living some sort of disarray.. <snip>
Funny, the article had me at 'wood stove and ferret'.

This is why we can't have nice things.
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Old 03-20-2023, 03:50 PM   #11
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This is why we can't have nice things.
Yep!!

Here in Iowa we have a lot of RAGBRAI buses in pretty dismal shape asthetically and mechanically. Iowa State Patrol Motor Vehicle Enforcement is woefully understaffed and can't keep up with the commercial buses let alone try to enforce any standards on private buses.

Add on top of that almost every party bus in the state is a converted school bus... some are done better than others. There's not many of the limo-style coaches around here like you'd see in Vegas or Chicago. So, used school buses of any type get a bad rap and people like the one in the article don't help.
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Old 03-21-2023, 01:20 PM   #12
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As long as you're legal, let em whine.
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Old 03-24-2023, 05:55 PM   #13
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As long as you're legal, let em whine.

Yes, and I suspect there might be an "ex post facto" issue if the city creates an ordinance and the record shows it was just to deal with this one person.
Trash and such outside? Lets see some documentation by an official.
Just sounds like a bunch of Karen's and Ken's to me.
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Old 03-24-2023, 07:30 PM   #14
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Don't turn trashy vagrant invaders into Rosa Parks, man. Or act like a community responding to a threat to their safety, security, and property values is a civil rights issue.

When the property owners rightfully 'whine' and have to make laws against busses on the streets disturbing their quality of life, we all lose.

If this woman wants to live in a neighborhood longer than the neighbors will tolerate a shabby bus moochdocking their real estate she should buy a house there.
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Old 03-24-2023, 08:31 PM   #15
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expect more of this as west coast problems will spread faster and faster. the person in that bus is not like us and just making it harder on us by being a slob. not to be unexpected
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Old 03-24-2023, 09:13 PM   #16
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As long as you maintain a real, "physical" address...what's to keep you from taking 12, one month vacations a year? Just find an accommodating camp ground owner (wink, wink, nod, nod) that would be willing to rent you a space by the year and would be willing to forward your mail as needed.
Unfortunately, Ohio probably isn't the best tax wise....
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Old 03-24-2023, 10:52 PM   #17
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You need a real address for your tags and dl but there is no law that stops you from living full time .. however insurance companies rule here tho and not always in a favorable way to us. Im a fulltimer
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Old 03-25-2023, 06:18 AM   #18
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If this woman wants to live in a neighborhood longer than the neighbors will tolerate a shabby bus moochdocking their real estate she should buy a house there.
This could likely be avoided if parked on the outskirts of town near an industrial park, a blighted area, or near a railroad siding or something of the sort. Why disrespect regular folks by parking in their neighborhood? Whether it's trashy or not, temporary housing like this doesn't belong in a suburban neighborhood IMO. Gotta know how to read the room.
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Old 03-25-2023, 12:51 PM   #19
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After seeing this thread continue still, I thought that I would add one more comment(s).
I looked at the one picture of the skoolie with all the trash alongside it and concluded that this individual has engaged in littering. In Oregon that can be a hefty fine for doing such. In Klamath county, heating with wood is regulated based on air quality numbers for a given day. If one uses their wood heat on a day or days where air quality is low (such as temperature inversions) they could be fined for that.
If the community where the skoolie occupant is littering and heating with wood has such ordinances (and likely they do) they could make it really expensive to stay there.

Last but not least, is it possible that the individual has some mental issues? Since I haven't seen any mention of the bus not licensed and they move around some, they must have funds available for fuel for the bus and wood for the stove and food. Maybe the local law enforcement could stop by and perform a wellness check?
Maybe someone else could provide some insight?
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Old 03-25-2023, 01:14 PM   #20
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Last but not least, is it possible that the individual has some mental issues?

Oh buddy, we've ALL got some mental issues!
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