WILDWOOD • A Lafayette High School senior prohibited from parking his pickup in his driveway is taking his fight to the streets of Wildwood.
Matt Perry, 17, plans to spend his spring break next week collecting signatures to change a rule that has driven a wedge between neighbors in the Valley View subdivision where he and his family live.
The truck in the dispute is a green-and-cream, two-tone 1965 Ford F100. Perry worked two jobs, at Kohl’s and Pizza Hut, to save $8,500 to buy the truck about a year and a half ago.
The pickup barely fits in his parents’ two-car garage, where they park their cars, so he’s kept it parked on the driveway. A month after he bought the truck, a neighbor yelled at him about parking it there overnight.
Soon after, a subdivision trustee brought over pictures of the truck parked on the driveway and said neighbors had complained. The subdivision rules prohibit pickups from being parked overnight more than four times a year. The family faced a $25-a-day fine, which the trustees have not yet imposed.
Perry, who works to pay for gas, maintenance and insurance on the truck, decided to fight for his right to park.
“I like driving it. It’s so pure of a driving experience,” he said. He shopped with his father for an old truck for months before finding this one.
Initially, the trustees helped him. They put the truck issue on a ballot when they mailed out the annual dues.
A few neighbors lobbied against the change, mailing a letter warning of declining property values if the rule was thrown out.
Charles Nance, among those who signed the letter, says his neighbor needs to follow the rules, which were in place before Perry was born.
“It’s just the question of the character of the neighborhood you want to live in,” he said. “Do you want to live in a neighborhood that has pickup trucks in every driveway, or do you want to live in a neighborhood different from that?”
He says Perry should have checked the rules before he bought the truck or he should park it in his garage.
The early vote went in favor of changing the anti-truck ordinance, 86-50, but changing the rule requires a supermajority, or 130 votes, trustee Scott Thomas explained. It was announced Feb. 27.
“We don’t have any issues with pickup trucks, personally,” Thomas said. “We’d be happy to have the change made, but it has to be done the right way.”
Thomas says the trustees and the neighborhood have been unfairly portrayed in the dispute, and he’s gotten threats calling him a white supremacist and a Nazi.
“We’d like to get a little credit for supporting (Matt),” he said, pointing out that 15 out of 20 surrounding subdivisions have similar provisions. “We’ve been singled out. If you go into higher-end subdivisions, if you go into Kirkwood or Ladue, people would be shocked at what kind of things are in their indentures.”
He even pointed out that he owns a Suburban, which he parks in his garage.
Wildwood Mayor Tim Woerther sent an email to the trustees Thursday to see if he could help broker a compromise.
“It’s strictly a subdivision matter,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the city of Wildwood. .. All we can do is bring the parties together.”
For Perry, the issue has become bigger than just avoiding the fine for parking the truck in his own driveway. The rules, as they were written in the 70s, allows pickups during the day.
He said he wonders if the underlying intent was to keep laborers, who could come during the day to work, out of the neighborhood at night and discourage certain people from living in the area.
“Before I didn’t want to pay the fine,” he said. “Now, I want to get the bylaw changed.”
His father, Todd Perry, pointed out that his son “works his butt off,” at school, where he tutors other students in Spanish and runs track, and still works at Kohl’s.
If Matt Perry spends seven minutes per home, walking and talking to all 190 homes in the subdivision to collect the remaining votes he needs, he would need 22 hours to canvass the neighborhood, his father said. “We did the math,” he said.
“It’s an outdated, discriminatory rule, yet he has to go door to door. It just seems wrong,” Todd Perry said. “We’re just trying to park the truck we own in the driveway we own. .. Is that such a crime what he’s asking to do?”
Perry, who had created a Facebook page, Save Matt’s Truck, talked about his plight in local media this week, and more than 12,000 people have expressed support for his cause.
Perry has decided the cause is worth his spring break. He’s rallying some friends to help collect signatures. He says he’s been taken aback by the all the support he’s received on his Facebook page from all over the world.
“A lot more people will support you for doing what you think is right than you think,” he said.
Editor's note: Mayor Tim Woerther's last name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.