Land Regulations Take Vintage Car Hobbyists on a Bumpy Ride

Published June 12, 2012

Everyone knows city or county building, zoning, and subdivision regulations decided a lot of what the family homestead would be like when it was built. Elements such as lot size, street setback, and the like are all set by these regulations.

Not always appreciated is that local regulations can also affect that homestead and how you may use it long after you’ve moved in.

Just one example is “junk car” laws that can stymie vintage car hobbyists.

Keep It Garaged

This is the time of year for classic car shows. The Pontiac fraternity, for example, is holding its national convention in St. Charles, Illinois in July. But it’s getting harder to bring an old GTO—or Mustang or Charger—back to life working at home because of increasingly widespread local “junk car” laws.

These laws typically treat any car that is unlicensed or inoperable as a “junk car.” And junk cars, considered unsightly, are often not legal at your home unless kept in a garage.

Classic car enthusiasts often live on large parcels away from the city where they have room for multiple vehicles, neighbors are farther away, and local land use laws were not stringent in the past.

But with more suburban folks moving to the countryside and bringing suburban regulation preferences with them, “junk car” laws now apply to more unincorporated township and county properties. The result can be costly lawsuits and a fine that grows with every passing day.

Even cars that cannot be seen from the street do not always get a pass. Some enforcers have used helicopters to spot “junk cars” in back yards.

Regulations can be made to distinguish between real outdoor trash and restoration of older vehicles by responsible, good-neighbor hobbyists.

Other Restrictions Encroach

There’s a message here even for non-fans of vintage vehicles. Well-intentioned but sometimes poorly thought-out local regulations can affect other ordinary families doing what they consider ordinary things. And in most cases families don’t even know about these laws until they get hit with a notice of violation and a fine.

Local laws can govern what kind of fence (if any) you may have in your front yard, how tall you may allow your grass to grow, where you may park your recreational vehicle, what political or other signs you may display, and whether you may start a home-based business.

John L. Gann Jr., ([email protected]) is a development consultant and author of How to Prevent Junk Car Laws from Shutting Down Your Home Car Hobby, available from the author.