The city’s planning and zoning commission this week began the review process regarding laws on open storage in areas such as porches, yards, patios and in vehicles.

Assistant City Administrator James Schmieder said the discussion came up internally after resident complaints.

“In doing a review of our ordinances, we realized that some are conflicting and some aren’t exactly clear,” Schmieder said. “We’re now trying to rectify that by getting clarification or resolving conflicts in those ordinances and determining what they should say.”

City Attorney Tim Melenbrink told the commission that the ordinances are unclear.

“In our definitions, we define open storage twice — kind of in different ways each time,” he said.

One ordinance defines open storage as “storage of material or goods on the ground outside of a building.”

Other ordinances regarding open storage prohibit specific items, such as household items, appliances, building materials, automotive or vehicle parts or any material in a front, rear or side yard or in a vehicle, whether it’s licensed or unlicensed.

The city bans open storage of inoperable or unlicensed vehicles or other vehicles deemed by the city to constitute a public safety hazard. Storage is permitted if the vehicle is in a locked building or fenced area and not visible from adjacent public or private property, or if it is at a licensed facility such as a salvage yard.

The ordinances outline open storage in some zoning districts and doesn’t mention others, Melenbrink noted.

A packet of violation photos was distributed to the commission to illustrate the wide array of items left outdoors. Most of the images included items in unorganized piles, strewn about, or in vehicles. Other photos showed unlicensed vehicles, recreational vehicles and campers being stored in yards or on the street.

The commission was tasked with determining what zoning districts need regulation of open storage and what items should be regulated.

Melenbrink noted that businesses that leave merchandise out overnight are in violation of ordinances as they’re currently written.

“We really don’t address that as an exemption,” Melenbrink said. “We need to get a handle on open storage and decide what districts is it important in and what items you want to cover.”

Melenbrink has started reviewing other cities’ ordinances.

The discussion will continue at a later meeting.