As our world changes, it’s time for Flossmoor’s Truck Fest

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The commentary below represents the ideas, observations and opinions of the author.

  Coming soon to Flossmoor? (Stock photo
  by MarkHatfield)
 
I have no idea if the citizens of Flossmoor, in an advisory referendum later this year, will vote to overturn the village’s longtime ban on parking pickup trucks in residential neighborhoods.
 
But I do have a few suggestions.
 
  Tom Houlihan
 
If voters overwhelmingly choose to overturn the zoning law prohibiting trucks on driveways — and the village board goes along with their recommendation — Flossmoor should immediately declare itself the pickup center of the Chicago area. An annual pickup truck festival should be announced, along with a big parade throughout the village and a prize for the most stylishly-decorated vehicles. 
 
If we are going to do away with the nation’s only remaining prohibition of trucks on driveways, it should be done with a major splash.
 
Similarly, if voters choose to keep the pickup truck driveway ban, Flossmoor also needs to announce the decision. Signs should be posted at the entrance of town saying “Flossmoor: Ask us about our truck ordinance.”
 
I am completely serious about the last suggestion. I’ve been writing stories about the truck ordinance for the last few years. But the driveway prohibition has attracted a lot more attention in the last couple of months and one part of the ban that is truly unfair is now crystal clear to me.
 
In recent years, a number of people have moved to Flossmoor without having any idea that the local zoning laws do not allow you to park your truck on your driveway. Once they have moved to town they start receiving tickets for an illegal use of their personal property.
 
At the village board’s June 6 meeting, several residents said the driveway prohibition was a hardship and they might not have moved to Flossmoor if they’d known about the ordinance. A theme emerged — members of a family arrive in town along with their personal vehicle, not knowing it may soon break the law. Then they find out, in a very unpleasant manner, that they are committing an illegal act by parking that vehicle on their driveway.
 
What’s wrong here, folks?
 
It appears that Flossmoor has the right to prohibit trucks from driveways — a federal court upheld the ordinance following a lawsuit and long legal battle. Meanwhile, backers of the ordinance say that truck owners can always park their vehicles in the garage.
 
Again, though, I think this is mostly a matter of fairness. People need to know, before they come into town, that Flossmoor has this unusual pickup truck law. Up until now it doesn’t sound like new residents with trucks have been told, before they move here, that they’ll have to live with the driveway ban.
 
It is unlikely that I will ever own a pickup truck. I’ve made it this far in my life without one and I see no reason to ever have a vehicle much bigger than my 1999 Accord, which has racked up nearly 240,000 miles. But I know that many people like pickup trucks and that it’s wrong to think that anyone who has one is transporting moonshine whiskey or otherwise acting badly. Besides, just about any new pickup these days costs more than an updated version of my sedan.
 
Over time, I have come to think of Flossmoor’s truck ordinance as a quirky throwback to a time when Flossmoor was, well, different. The ordinance, which has been on the books since the 1980s, was originally designed to preserve the aesthetic proprieties of an affluent community. Back then, pickup trucks were overwhelmingly considered work vehicles. And we know that work vehicles, then and now, can sometimes be unsightly.
 
A lot has happened since then. Flossmoor is no longer a town where a good percentage of the residents belong to country clubs. It is far more diverse than it was in the 1980s, which I see as a very good thing. Pickup trucks are now the vehicle of choice for all types of people and no longer regarded primarily as work vehicles. For Ford, the F-150 line is the company’s biggest money-maker and includes some of the most popular vehicles in America.
 
I think it would be proper to set limits on the size of trucks that are allowed on driveways, and prohibit vehicles with company logos. Other than that, I personally think it’s time to say goodbye to the pickup truck prohibition. It doesn’t make much sense anymore, especially when you see the size of SUVs, which have become the dad jeans of American vehicles in the last 20 years. Many of them are just as big as trucks and they are totally legal on driveways in Flossmoor.
 
One last thing. The pickup truck ordinance was in the national spotlight twice in the last month. On July 1, the Wall Street Journal ran a front page (!!!) story on the truck ban. A couple of weeks later, the Chicago Tribune talked about the ban in an editorial that used country music in an “ode” to pickup trucks.
 
Spare me. Just thinking that the Wall Street Journal is the newspaper of the common man is enough to make me keel over. The Tribune’s piece, while a little hokey, pointed out that pickup trucks are also prohibited on Chicago’s boulevard network, which includes Lake Shore Drive and streets like Garfield and Diversey.
 
I think it’s interesting that the Flossmoor pickup ban is a national news story.
 
But I’m glad that we’re the ones who get to decide what happens next.
 

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