You come home one afternoon to find a ticket on your project vehicle parked on your property. Sound like a nightmare? In some areas of the country, it's all too real. State and local laws-some current, others pending-can and will dictate where you can work on your project. That car or truck you've stashed behind your house until the new crate engine arrives? The cherished collectible you've hung onto since high school to pass down to your kids? All could 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 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 end up.
Another concern is how many states and localities are currently enforcing, or attempting to legislate, strict property or zoning laws that include restrictions on visible, inoperable car bodies and parts. Often, removal of these vehicles from private property is enforced through local nuisance laws with little or no notice to the owner. Jurisdictions enforce or enact these laws for a variety of reasons, mostly because they believe inoperative vehicles are eyesores adversely affecting property values, or pose a environmental risk due to leaking fluids and chemicals. Many such laws are drafted broadly, allowing for the confiscation of vehicles being repaired or restored.
For these laws, "inoperable vehicles" are most often defined as those that the engine, wheels, or other parts have been removed, altered, damaged, or allowed to deteriorate so the vehicle cannot be driven. The following are some common conditions causing vehicles to be in violation:
* Missing tires
* Vehicle on blocks
* Front windshield missing
* No engine
* Steering wheel missing
* License plate with expired registration date
* No license tag
In 2009-2010, hobbyists defeated bills in Hawaii, Kansas, Nebraska, Virginia, and West Virginia that would have established unreasonable restrictions on backyard restoration projects. In response, SEMA drafted its own inoperable vehicle bill that's fair to enthusiasts while being considerate of neighbors who don't want a junkyard operating next door. The SEMA model bill simply states project vehicles and their parts must be maintained or stored outside "ordinary public view." States can adopt this model legislation as their own, like Kentucky did in 2005.
Emissions & Smog Check Programs
Many states operate their own emissions programs in EPA-designated "non-attainment areas," meaning the area has not attained EPA minimum required air quality. The EPA checks for carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide when designating these areas. When an area does not meet the EPA standard, it is then placed on the list of nonattainment areas.
To meet EPA emissions reduction requirements, many states are implementing stringent emission inspection and maintenance (I/M) programs. Several states have incorporated the OBD testing method as part of vehicle emissions inspections for 1996-and-newer vehicles.
I/M 240 is an enhanced emissions testing program, with "240" representing the number of seconds the tailpipe portion of the test lasts. I/M 240 requires visual inspection of emissions control devices, an evaporative emissions test, and a transient drive-cycle exhaust test, performed while the vehicle is running on rollers. Many state programs mistakenly fail vehicles in the visual test based on the presence of aftermarket engine products, or force older collector vehicles to undergo some type of testing.
Policy makers must properly focus inspection procedures and not confuse legitimate aftermarket parts with anti-emission devices and tampering violations. The hobby must also pursue proactive legislation to establish exemptions for low-mileage vehicles, classic vehicles (defined as 25-plus years old) and newer vehicles.