Inoperable Vehicles
Don't Get Zoned Out!
You come home one afternoon only to find a ticket on your project vehicle that's parked on your property. Sounds like a nightmare scenario, doesn't it? But in some areas of the country, it's all too real. State and local laws-some on the books now, others pending-can or will dictate where you can work to restore or modify your project vehicle. Believe it or not, that project car or truck you've stashed behind your house until the new crate engine arrives or the cherished collectible you've hung onto since high school to pass down to your kids could very easily be towed right out of your yard depending on the zoning laws in your area.

Why is the long arm of the law reaching into your backyard? Some zealous government officials are waging war against what they consider "eyesores". To us, of course, these are valuable on-going restoration projects. But to a non-enthusiast lawmaker, your diamond-in-the-rough looks like a junker ready for the salvage yard. If you're not careful, that's exactly where it will wind up.

For the purposes of these laws, "inoperable vehicles" are most often defined as those on which the engine, wheels, or other parts have been removed, altered, damaged, or allowed to deteriorate so that the vehicle cannot be driven.

This year, SAN defeated bills in Hawaii, Kansas, Nebraska, Virginia, and West Virginia that would have established unreasonable restrictions on backyard restoration projects. In response to these and other anti-hobbyist efforts, SEMA has drafted its own inoperable vehicle bill that's fair to restorers while still considerate of neighbors who don't want a junkyard operating next door. The SEMA-model bill simply states that project vehicles and their parts must be maintained or stored outside of "ordinary public view". States can adopt this model legislation as their own; in 2005, Kentucky did just that. This past session, Vermont also chose to protect hobbyists from a bill that was targeted at salvage yards. The new law increases the regulation of salvage yards and automobile graveyards in the state, but includes a provision stipulating that hobbyists are not to be confused with the owners of automobile graveyards.

A model inoperative vehicle bill should contain the following elements: An explicit provision prohibiting a local area from adopting or implementing an ordinance or land use regulation that prohibits a person from engaging in the activities of an automobile collector in an area zoned by the municipality. A definition of collector vehicles that includes parts cars. A provision allowing an automobile collector to conduct mechanical repairs and modifications to a vehicle on private property. A provision mandating that government authorities provide actual notice to the vehicle's last registered owner and provide an opportunity for voluntary compliance prior to confiscation. A provision mandating due process of the law (adequate notice, right to hearing, etc.) prior to the removal of a vehicle from private property. Language to permit the outdoor storage of a motor vehicle if the vehicle is maintained in such a manner as not to constitute a health hazard. The condition that parts vehicles be located away from public view, or screened by means of a suitable fence, trees, shrubbery, opaque covering, or other appropriate means.

Emissions And Smog Check Programs
Many states operate their own emissions inspection programs in areas that the EPA has designated as a "nonattainment area," meaning that the area has not attained the EPA's required air quality. To meet the EPA's emissions reduction requirements, many states are now implementing more stringent emission inspection and maintenance (I/M) programs.