Operators of a New Jersey campground and RV dealership have lost their appeal of a case involving the rental and placement of recreational park trailers or park models in the Garden State.
In a recent decision, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appealate Division, sided with the state’s Department of Community Affairs in a case involving the Tall Timbers Property Owners Association Inc., Pleasant Acres Campground Inc. and owners Edward and Deanna Tilton. The court ruled that park model or recreational park trailers fall under the same guidelines as manufactured housing.
On Nov. 30, 2006, the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) adopted an interpretive regulation, N.J.A.C. 5:23-9.3, which determined that recreational park trailers are subject to the State Uniform Construction Code, adopted under the authority of the Uniform Construction Code Act (UCC Act), N.J.S.A. 52:27D-119 to -141. On June 17, 2008, the DCA adopted a new set of regulations, which established standards for the design, manufacture, and installation of recreational park trailers, N.J.A.C. 5:23-4D.
Appellants, who are a seller of recreational park trailers, the owner of a 290-site campground in Sussex, N.J., where recreational park trailers are installed and the owners of a recreational park trailer, challenged the validity of these regulations on three grounds:
- The UCC Act does not confer authority upon the DCA to regulate recreational park trailers under the code.
- The DCA’s regulation of recreational park trailers is pre-empted by the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act (Manufactured Housing Act), 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 5401-5426, and the regulations adopted thereunder.
- The DCA adopted these regulations without conducting the analysis required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act, N.J.S.A. 52:14B-16 to -21.
The court heard arguments Feb. 23 and returned its decision April 26, rejecting appellants’ arguments and affirming the validity of N.J.A.C. 5:23-9.3 and N.J.A.C. 5:23-4D.
Jay Otto, executive director of the New Jersey Campground Owners Association (NJCOA), recently informed his membership of the court’s decision.
In an e-mail to RVBUSINESS.COM, Otto noted, “Tall Timbers has spent a lot of money along with donations from ARVC, NJCOA, and NJRVDA fighting these regulations. However I am not surprised by the outcome. You have people making decisions in creating rules, and the interpretation, who have little knowledge of our industry and how and what recreational vehicles are and how they are used in our state. We have state codes that prohibit residency and domicile in a campground yet they create more restrictive regulations just because they can.
“I don’t believe Tall Timbers will pursue this any further. We in New Jersey will have to abide by the stringent restrictions or not purchase park trailers. The DCA has said in the past that they could regulate travel trailers if they wanted to. There has been a anti-business climate in New Jersey for years and we are now looking forward to that changing with our new governor, Chris Christie.”
Here is an excerpt from the court’s opinion:
The regulatory authority that Title 39 confers upon the Motor Vehicle Commission regarding recreational park trailers is limited to their operation upon highways; it does not extend to their installation in a mobile home park or campground. Thus, N.J.S.A. 39:10-6 requires a recreational park trailer to be registered with the Motor Vehicle Commission before the owner may operate it on a highway, and N.J.S.A. 39:3-43 confers authority upon the Motor Vehicle Commission “to pass upon the construction and equipment of any vehicle . . . with a view to its safety for use in a street or highway[.]” (Emphasis added). However, Title 39 does not require the owner of a recreational park trailer that is simply parked in a mobile home park to register it with the Motor Vehicle Commission, and Title 39 does not confer authority upon the Commission to regulate the safety of a recreational park trailer as a place of human habitation. Therefore, like the Department of Health and Senior Services’ regulation of mobile park owners and operators, the Motor Vehicle Commission’s regulation of the operation of recreational park trailers on public highways is complementary, rather than antagonistic, to the DCA’s regulation of the installation of those trailers in mobile home parks and campgrounds.
The state of New Jersey has reportedly agreed to back off residency rules that threatened to evict residents this fall at a Cape May County campground, according to The Press of Atlantic City.
About 60 residents of Carol Lynn Resorts in Woodbine met with state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, about the state’s decision last year to impose a six-month residency limit on seasonal campgrounds.
Van Drew announced that the state Department of Community Affairs will grandfather existing recreational park trailers, also known as park models, at the state’s campgrounds. These are trailers of 400 square feet or less that, according to the state, have electrical systems that might be substandard.
Residents still must comply with local ordinances over residency, Van Drew said. In Woodbine, that means residents at campgrounds such as Carol Lynn Resorts can live there daily from April to November and remain 21 days per month the remainder of the year.
Carol Lynn Resorts is considered a campground, but residents here hardly camp. They live in their park models year-round.
“Technically, a campground is not and never has been a year-round residence – technically,” Van Drew said. “The DCA has now agreed this requirement will only apply to new trailers coming into the park.”
Woodbine has never enforced its own rules governing campground residency. But when the state imposed the new six-month rules, campground owners Anthony and Carol Saduk gave residents a Nov. 1 deadline to leave.
The residency rules stirred tempers and raised consternation among campground residents. Van Drew began his comments by imploring the residents to “be nice.”
But the sudden eviction notices caught many people by surprise, and for-sale signs began popping up in the windows of many of the trailers.
DCA spokesman Chris Donnelly could not be reached for comment late Thursday. Van Drew said he was negotiating a deal with former DCA Commissioner Joseph Doria, before he resigned last week amid a corruption scandal.
Van Drew said he reached a similar understanding with the agency’s new acting commissioner.
Campground owners may impose their own rules that may be more restrictive than the state’s, Van Drew said. But Carol Saduk on Thursday said if Van Drew is correct, the state’s response satisfies her concerns about complying with the law and her tenants may stay through the winter.
“The regulation is on the books. You can’t ignore it because so-and-so said you can.
We wanted it in writing,” she said. “We were just doing what the state told us to do. The shame of this is it put us in the position of being the big bad guys throwing the senior citizens out.
“All’s well that ends well. We’ll move on from here,” she said.
Residents applauded Van Drew’s announcement and said the state’s decision satisfies them.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey Campground Owners Association has proposed a compromise to establish a 270-day or nine-month season. The trade group represents 105 campgrounds and resorts in 13 counties.
“If there are any situations where people are there longer, we’re proposing they get an electrical inspection by an electrician to certify it’s safe for use and meets the residential code,” said Jay otto, trade group president. “This should satisfy the DCA’s concerns about the electric systems in the units.”