After buying a new trailer, John Gullison just wants to sell his fifth-wheel camper.
But now he’s been drawn into a fight with Whitehorse bylaw officers and may end up camping in court.
The problem is Gullison’s spare trailer, which was recently parked at Wal-Mart sporting a for-sale sign.
It was one of three private-sale vehicles parked in the lot at the time.
Acting on a complaint, Whitehorse bylaw officers told Wal-Mart staff that if the vehicles weren’t removed they would be towed away.
They also threatened to fine Wal-Mart and the vehicle owners, Gullison among them.
Wal-Mart relayed the message to Gullison.
Gullison moved the camper, though he confirmed that, in principle, Wal-Mart had no objection to the trailer being parked there.
Bylaw’s intervention left him confused.
Why did officers hassle Wal-Mart?
“Why not phone me?” said Gullison, noting his phone number is plastered on the vehicle. “They shouldn’t be bothering Wal-Mart about it.”
Wal-Mart is barred from allowing private-sale vehicles on its lot through a local zoning bylaw, said Dave Prodan, Whitehorse’s senior constable.
Residents are prevented from displaying their used vehicles along public highways by section 206 of the Yukon Motor Vehicles Act, he added.
It states “no person shall park on a highway a vehicle displayed for sale or a vehicle displaying advertising directing persons to any commercial premises.”
The definition of highway in the act is broad enough to cover any stretch of road, gravel or asphalt, in the territory.
Enforcement is often complaint driven, said Prodan, noting that local dealerships, particularly those in the used-vehicles biz, have been demanding enforcement of the law.
“There are people who think it affects their business and the law is there so we’re forced to deal with it,” said Prodan.
It’s not a new issue, he said.
And while some action is forced by complaints, bylaw has flagged this an issue and will act when it sees vehicles parked for sale, whether there’s a complaint or not.
“We’re supposed to be proactive,” he said.
Currently, bylaw officers are simply warning residents to move their vehicles.
They are warning people not to park their used cars in high-traffic areas, such as the Wal-Mart, the Superstore and Canadian Tire parking lots and the empty field beneath the Canada Games Centre.
But, at some point this summer, bylaw officers will start issuing tickets to offenders, said Prodan.
Nevertheless, bylaw’s fixation on car sales is odd, said Gullison.
Some local businesses have cars that display advertising. The cars are parked on local streets, noted Gullison.
Is bylaw prosecuting them?
Realtors display open-house signs. Some have trailers that promote real-estate companies parked on local roads.
Are they to be charged?
And people frequently post signs along roads promoting garage sales.
And there are vehicles parked on several local business parking lots that display For Sale signs, noted Gullison.
Are they going to be prosecuted?
Bylaw will prosecute if it receives a complaint or sees such a vehicle, said Prodan.
Could someone complain if they saw a parked car emblazoned with contact information directing people to a local business? Say, a florist? Or a contractor? Or a local car dealer?
They could, said Prodan.
“It’s a big act.”
Citing the hypocrisy in prosecuting some scofflaws and not others, Gullison is willing to challenge the $50 fine in court, especially if it would reveal who lodged the complaint.
But bylaw officers threatened that, should it go to court, they could ask the fine be raised to an unspecified amount.
Still, Gullison thinks it’s time to “push back.
“You should have a right to face your accuser in court,” he said.
“I’m usually a pretty calm person, but this is really getting under my skin.”
By the way, Gullison’s fifth-wheel is a 1998 Komfort. He’s asking $19,500, including hitch and accessories.
If you’re interested, call him. The number is 668-4628.