Editor’s Note: Sandy Speasl, a year-round resident of Hyatt Lake, Ore., and a member of Southern Oregon Citizens for Responsible Land Use Planning, wrote this opinion piece that appeared in the Medford, Ore., Mail Tribune. It pertains to a government official’s decision that could force the closing of a park model resort in that southern Oregon community.
We wish to point out several inaccuracies in the Oct. 26 Mail Tribune article concerning Hyatt Lake Resort and to highlight some information about this decision and final order handed down by the independent hearings officer, Donald Rubenstein.
That decision was made after a three-month review of more than 1,000 pages of testimony and information compiled by all the parties in the appeal. Rubenstein’s 42-page decision is available to the public at Jackson County Development Services, as is the county planning staff report.
Last May, neighbors were advised of a zoning decision concerning Hyatt Lake. Because we disagreed with the county’s decision to permit development in a Forest Resource Zone, we filed an appeal. As citizens who live in the area, we were also alarmed when neighbors reported sewage flowing from Bob McNeely’s property into the lake.
McNeely contends he is operating an RV resort. We contend he has built a planned unit development (subdivision) on land that is zoned Forest Resource and has been historically permitted as a seasonal campground only. Rubenstein agrees with our assessment.
We are extremely concerned about potential fire and propane explosions. Each cabin that McNeely has built has an attached 120-gallon propane tank, with no setbacks as required for a house. The cabins are as close together as 7 feet, and surrounded by extensive wooden decks and wooden skirting.
A fire expert who testified at the hearing noted, “This density exceeds the setbacks that are required even under a municipal code where the inhabitants have fire hydrants and city fire departments that respond in under five minutes. This resort has no means of suppression for a full structure fire, let alone multiple structures that would surely follow.”
Rubenstein determined there was “no doubt that the risk of fire from the park model development significantly increases the risk of fire both within and beyond the resort.”
In the article, McNeely claims he is entitled to develop 65 RV spaces and has septic licenses from Jackson County for 35 sites. The county found some evidence to support full service to 21 sites, but found no evidence of approved land-use permits or sanitary sewer permits since 1977.
“There were four or five cabins without kitchens that were rented in some winters but there was no overnight winter recreational use of the resort beyond that,” Rubenstein’s decision said.
In fact, many of the alterations for which McNeely sought permits had already been put in place, apparently violating his federal lease with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as well as county regulations. He also set up an office and administrative building at the resort without permits. It was red-tagged and ordered decommissioned. McNeely is apparently ignoring the county’s order, as this office continues to be used daily.
In the article, McNeely states, “there is much misinformation, particularly about the cabins, which are clearly designated and designed as recreational vehicles.” We would agree with him as to the misinformation.
According to the Oregon Structural Code, a “park trailer” is an RV “built on a single chassis, mounted on wheels … with a gross trailer area not exceeding 400 square feet when in the set-up mode.” The hearings officer found that many of these “park models” set up at Hyatt Lake Resort are actually “two park models attached to one another to form structures that are wider than 30 feet and far in excess of the 400-square-foot limit that governs park model structures. Additionally, many of them have second stories and dormers and lofts, and all of the units have hot tubs. They are advertised as capable of sleeping between two and six people. Evidence establishes that units are used to sleep as many as eight.”
McNeely clearly does not see these units as RVs either, as he openly advertises them as “cabins” and “destination homes.” We encourage people to drive to Hyatt Lake to judge for themselves whether the units resemble RVs or permanent houses.
McNeely blames the county and his neighbors for his financial woes. We contend that Campers Cove LLC did not follow proper procedures.
Admittedly, the county made mistakes in allowing this development to occur in the first place. However, through public input and testimony — a right we may all exercise because we do not live in a communist country — the hearings officer determined what was necessary to correct these errors. It’s now the public’s job to support the county in seeing that the final decision and order are carried out if the state Land Use Board of Appeals determines it should be.