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High-End Florida RV Park Site Prices Resilient

October 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Typical site at Chassa Oaks RV Resort

Typical site at Chassa Oaks RV Resort

For years, housing prices have taken a beating in Florida as a result of the subprime mortgage crisis, recession-induced job losses and record numbers of foreclosures.

But while prices for site-built homes and condominiums have fallen by 40% or more in many locations, prices for sites at some of Florida’s newer and higher-end RV parks and resorts have fallen by less than half that amount, according to a news release from several Florida developers.

In some cases, they haven’t fallen at all.

Jim Eyster, who recently developed Chassas Oaks RV Resort in Homosassa, said prices for sites at some of the more upscale RV resorts are holding their own partly as a result of the continuing shortage of high-quality RV parks and resorts that sell their sites in Florida.

“There was never a big building boom of RV sites during the heyday of the real estate boom,” Eyster said.

Bill Harvey, who developed Silver Palms RV Village in Okeechobee, also believes that the relative shortage of high quality RV resorts in sought-after destinations is helping to keep RV site prices steady. “I have seen little if any price reduction in RV resorts that have sites for under $75,000,” he said, adding, “Silver Palms has not lowered our prices at all over the past two years, and I do not intend to.”

While Florida continues to have an abundance of RV parks, more than half of them were built 30 or more years ago and cannot easily accommodate today’s larger, more luxurious RVs or the people who invest in them.

These larger RVs, many of which have slideout rooms, flat screen TVs, computers, stereos, microwave ovens and other household appliances, often require 50- to 100-amp utility connections, as well as larger campsites and wider roads, all of which are difficult for Florida’s older parks to provide, unless they make considerable investments in upgrades and renovations.

Meanwhile, changing government regulations are making it more costly to develop RV resorts in some areas of Florida, which translates into higher RV site costs.

Eyster has seen evidence of this first hand in Citrus County. Seven years ago, when he developed Nature Coast Landings in Crystal River, the county allowed him to build up to 12 RV sites per acre. The county now requires developers to build no more than five RV lots per acre.

“This means everybody gets more space,” Eyster said. “It also makes it more expensive to develop the property because the infrastructure costs remain the same and you aren’t able to spread the water, sewer and clubhouse costs over as many sites.”

David Gorin, a longtime campground industry consultant, added that RV resorts that sell their sites provide consumers with an affordable way to obtain country club-style amenities without the high maintenance fees that condo developments typically charge. RV site owners can also have the park rent out their sites when they’re not using them, so they can make money on their investments.

The insurance costs for RV sites are also lower than they are for site built homes and condos, since RV sites are less susceptible to hurricane damage than site-built homes or condos, Gorin said, noting that RV owners have the ability to move their vehicles before powerful storms arrive.

So with this information in mind, combined with the relative shortage of higher end RV parks and resorts that sell their sites, developers are less inclined to lower their prices.

Some RV resort developers also feel they have an obligation not to lower their prices because that could undercut investors who recently purchased sites from them.

“There’s still quite a bit of consumer interest in buying an RV site,” Gorin said, adding, “If you go to the Tampa RV Supershow in January, practically every park that sells its sites has a booth there.”

For more information regarding the price trends involving RV resort sites, contact Jim Eyster, Chassa Oaks RV Resort, Homosassa, (352) 212-7245 or jj1953@earthlink.net; Bill Harvey, Silver Palms RV Village, (863) 467-5800 or info@silverpalmsrv.com; or David Gorin at (703) 371-7467 or david@davidgorinassociates.com.

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Pennsylvania Cabins Campground Opposed

September 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A Connellsville, Pa., man is finding opposition from neighbors to his request to construct a “resort-type” structure in Dunbar Township near River’s Edge Campground, the Connellsville Daily Courier reported.

At a public hearing Wednesday (Sept. 22), Geno Gallo, the former owner of River’s Edge Campground, brought his request for a special exception to the Fayette County Zoning Hearing Board. Gallo would like to place what is considered a resort-type business to this community 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

His venture would target those who are using the nearby bike trail.

Gallo wants to construct a maximum of 40 cabins, a swimming pool, a larger cabin with a meeting place, a cabin to sell and prepare food, three-sided structures for cyclists, RV sites and a residential structure where Gallo would live on 30-plus acres of land he owns in the Dunbar Township area.

The land is separated by the River’s Edge Campground, which has been owned by a relative’s corporation since 2005.

Gallo testified before the board that he has wanted to do something for the bike trail and found a need for lodging in the area. He said a business there would bring in additional revenue for the local utilities as well as the township; he added that his first phase of the project would be to construct 10 to 15 cabins.

Cathy McCollom, who was formerly with the Trail Town Program and the Progress Fund, did not represent the organizations she was affiliated with when she testified about a 2008 study that pointed out a need for hotel and motel lodging in Fayette County, especially Connellsville.

“It’s important for Connellsville to seek lodging,” McCollom said, adding that those who use the bike trail spend $96 in a town along the trail in comparison to the $13 they spend if they don’t spend the night in a town.

McCollom said the proposed area being a few miles away could help fill that need.

However, five residents around that area expressed opposition to the proposal.

Colleen Joseph, who resides along Adelaide Road, said she has been subjected to RVs traveling on her property because the roadway is too narrow.

“Safety is the biggest issue,” Joseph said.

Joseph Ritz Jr., who resides along Adelaide Hills and looks over the campground, said he opposes the proposed special exception for several reasons — smoke drifts from the campground area up into his residence and he fears the problems that might be associated with bringing travelers into the area.

“This will devalue property,” Ritz said. “We are a huge tax base.”

Beth Kuhns, who resides along Adelaide Road, brought a petition signed by approximately 40 residents expressing opposition to the proposal; however, the petition was not brought into evidence because of an objection by Gallo’s attorney, Doug Sepic, who said the petition is hearsay because not all of those who signed the petition were available to be questioned at the hearing.

Kunhs said many of the complaints came from the ongoing changes with the plans. She said she heard the number of cabins fluctuated hearing at times there may be 80 cabins.

“We purchased this for a residential community, not for RV sites,” Kuhns said.

Gretchen Mundorff, attorney for the zoning hearing board, reminded the residents that the special exception request wasn’t for changing the zoning. The area is currently zoned as agricultural, which Mundorff said is the riskiest piece of zoned land to have a residence. She said that zoning designation could mean anything from a shooting range to mining can occur next to a residential property.

The board will announce its decision within 45 days.

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Chamber Prez Quits to Support RV Park

September 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Charlie Arnold has stepped down from the board presidency of the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce in Chino Valley, Ariz., to devote his energies to fighting a referendum drive against a recreational vehicle park project, the Sun Shopper reported.

Arnold said he also announced his resignation Wednesday (Sept. 8) during a chamber luncheon to be “above reproach.” The resignation will go into effect by the end of the month to allow for an orderly succession, and Arnold will remain as a member.

“I want to have the ability, whether politically or legally, to devote my time to this referendum issue,” said Arnold, 25, who has headed the chamber board since July 2009. “I made the choice on my own.”

Arnold said he wants to represent his client, Jack Tuls Jr. of Las Vegas, Nev., as a businessman and not as chamber president.

He announced his resignation eight days after Protect Our Rural Lifestyle submitted petitions to Town Clerk Jami Lewis to seek to overturn a July 22 decision of the town council. The council voted 6-1 that evening to rezone 17 acres on the south side of East Road 3-1/2 North, about 400 feet east of Highway 89, to accommodate plans by Tuls to build a Kampgrounds of America (KOA) RV campground at the location.

Opponents claim heavy-commercial zoning at the location conflicts with nearby homes. Arnold and other supporters believe the KOA, and other commercial development on land Tuls owns, will create jobs and stimulate economic development.

Petition drive organizer Candy Blakeslee, who attended the luncheon as a chamber member, said her opposition is nothing personal.

“This is about a project, not about specific people,” Blakeslee said. “This is about commercial-heavy zoning next to residential. It is not against Mr. Arnold. It is not against Mr. Tuls.”

She referred comments about Arnold’s decision to the person who chairs the committee, who could not be reached for comment.

Tuls, who also attended the luncheon, said Arnold notified him a few days ago about his intention to resign from the chamber presidency.

“He does not want the chamber in the middle of it,” Tuls said. “He definitely is making a good decision.”

Tuls said about 50 people approached Arnold offering their support after he announced his resignation. The chamber has more than 350 members.

Concurring, Chino Valley Mayor Jim Bunker said Arnold did not want to divide the chamber by playing an active role in the referendum, adding some project opponents belong to the chamber.

Meanwhile, Lewis, the town clerk, said Wednesday that she has until Sept. 29 to forward the petitions to the Yavapai County Recorder’s Office.

“That is our deadline,” Lewis said. “My intention is to get them (submitted) a week ahead of time.”

Lewis is reviewing 446 signatures that Blakeslee’s group turned in Aug. 31. The figure is well above the 188 minimum based on the number of voters who participated in the council election in 2009.

Lewis previously said the earliest date a referendum could take place is next March, the same time as the next council primary election.

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Texas City Invests in Park Model ‘Cabins’

September 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Existing park model cabins at The Vineyards Campground, Grapevine, Texas.

Existing park model cabins at the Vineyards Campground, Grapevine, Texas.

In a continuing trend by the campground industry to add park model accommodations to campgrounds, seven new park model cabins and a camp store are among $500,000 in improvements at the Vineyards Campground at Lake Grapevine in Grapevine, Texas, the city council decided Tuesday (Sept. 7).

Council members voted to start the process of issuing a $500,000 bond to pay for the cabins and furnishings, a camp store and five boat docks. They also approved spending $267,524 of the bond money specifically for the seven manufactured cabins for the 52-acre, city-owned camping area, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported.

“There has been strong demand” for the campground’s existing five cabins, “and it’s growing,” said Joe Moore, Grapevine’s assistant parks director.

Each new cabin will cover about 395 square feet. Each will be supplied with kitchen utensils and appliances and will have plumbing and air conditioning.

The 400-square-foot camp store will carry “minor supplies and sundries,” Moore said. It will also have a computer station for campers to check e-mail.

Docks will be installed at four recreational-vehicle camping sites and at the campground boat ramp.

Cabin rental fees — $106 to $145 a night — are expected to generate enough to repay the bond and cover maintenance costs.

The upgrades are the latest of several in recent years. In April, the city approved $1.4 million to build foundations for the seven cabins and to hook up water and sewer service and electricity to 17 RV sites. That work began in May and is set to end late next month.

A $1.8 million renovation in 2006 added the five cabins, a fish-cleaning site, new and renovated restrooms, and 13 RV sites.

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Acquisitive Alabama Resort Launches Website

August 27, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Representatives from Bella Terra Realty Holdings LLC (BTRH) announced Thursday (Aug. 26) the launch of their new corporate website, BTRHLLC.com. The site was developed to serve as the consulting and resort acquisition platform for BTRH, the parent company of Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, in Foley, Ala., the organization’s flagship property.

“Over the past two years we have been bombarded by two requests. The first, guests and owners asking where our next resort will be located and secondly, developers from coast to coast wanting to join the Bella Terra family,” Chuck Smith,BTRH president and CEO, said in a news release. “The BTRH team was put together to both actively seek out additional locations for Bella Terra resorts, as well as consult with existing and yet to be developed properties in the United States and internationally.”

The website features an extensive list of services provided by BTRH in addition to those provided by their strategic partners. These include: site acquisition and design, construction management, sales and marketing, HOA management, rental management, resort management, legal and financing.

Features that will be added in the coming months include a section for best practices, blogs, research, newsletter and key industry news links.

“BTRH has brought together a great resource for the industry,” said Tom Derzypolski, principal of BowStern, an integrated marketing firm specializing in the RV industry. “I would say the vast majority of developers contemplating or attempting to develop an RV resort have likely never owned an RV nor visited an RV resort. The resources available through this website will not only provide valuable insight to the nuances of the RV industry, but also improve the products being developed for the RV consumer. It’s a win-win for all.”

Through their flagship property, Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, BTRH has developed multiple proprietary processes and advanced practices that offer projects seamless transition through design, development and launch of RV resorts.

“We have spent well over $1 million developing what is being recognized by industry leaders as one of the finest brands in the nation,” said Tripp Keber, COO of Bella Terra Realty Holdings LLC. “A strong brand coupled with effective systems, offer our projects early recognition, credibility and speed to market. These are winning combinations for us and our partners.”

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New KOA Campground a ‘Destination’ Park

August 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

When a small group of investors came together to build a campground on property in Yankton, S.D., owned by the National Field Archery Association (NFAA), they decided to make it a first-class facility.

“The group of us decided that, if we were going to do it, we were going to do it nice,” Dale James, one of the investors, told the Yankton Press & Dakotan. “There are going to be a lot of activities — way more than most campgrounds. You won’t just go to camp there.”

The owners anticipate that the Yankton/Missouri River KOA, located at 807 Bill Baggs Road, will quietly open by the end of next week. A more official opening will occur in mid-August when a couple of archery tournaments will bring an influx of people to the area.

It will have 90 campsites, including pads for campers, four small cabins and six lodges.

The 20-acre site will also include facilities for basketball, sand volleyball, croquet, badminton, miniature golf and horseshoes. Additionally, it will have playground equipment, a swimming pool with a slide, a recreational area for dogs and a jumping pillow that can hold approximately 75 people at once.

Bruce Cull, president of the NFAA, which is an investor in the development, and James could be found bouncing around on the large jumping pillow during a recent muggy afternoon.

“Talk about a cardio exercise!” Cull said as he hopped off the pillow. “I was on there for a minute, and I’m breathing harder than if I had run for 10 miles. It’s crazy.”

Cull said the idea was to make the KOA facility a “destination campground.”

“It’s such a cool project,” he said. “All the things we’re going to have for campers is incredible. We’ve got pretty much everything to make it a real destination.”

In addition to the previously-mentioned amenities, Cull points out that a building at the site will house showers, bathrooms, a convenience store, an arcade room and a video lottery area. A pavilion will also be used to hold activities.

On the NFAA grounds adjacent to the campground, there are four 28-target field archery courses, a trap range, a tennis court, and a pond for fishing.

The project will represent an investment of more than $2 million, Cull said.

“The whole idea is to bring more people to town,” he stated.

James added, “Look at the money these campers are going to spend in town. They’ve got to buy fuel, food and will also spend money on recreational opportunities.”

A manager will live in a lodge on the campground, and it is expected to be open annually from March through December.

Cull believes hunters will be among those who use it during the traditional camping off-season.

“The operation is set up so it can run in harsh winters,” Cull said. “The intent is to be open as long as we can profitably do so. The bottom line right now is to keep our heads above water financially. We’ve got a big investment here.”

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Texas RV Resort Planned Near Tiger Refuge

July 19, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

One of the tigers at Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge

One of the tigers at Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge

Bud Surles’ Signature Resorts has announced a completed master plan for Tiger Creek Resort, located in Tyler, Texas.

Tiger Creek Resort is an enterprise developed in conjunction with the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge, a non-profit organization in tiger conservation, education, big cat rescue and rehabilitation. The new resort will sell RV memberships and cottage timeshares, rent RV sites and cottages and rent event facilities at the resort, according to a news release.

Amenities include a swimming pool, a small lake and dock, a camper service building with a gift shop, a playground and two outdoor pavilions. “I have had the privilege of working with many unique ideas in my career, but this one stands to be one of the most exciting,” said Surles, reminiscing his 30 years of park development and design.

Brian and Lisa Werner, owners of Tiger Creek Resort, are well respected in the business community, and the Tyler community. Brian Werner has experienced substantial success in the start-up of several organizations and Lisa Werner brings a wealth of marketing experience that will only enhance their combined ability to succeed in this new venture.

“This development is really about bringing people and animals together through a nature-based tourist attraction that also provides sustainability for the big cats of Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge. Basically we plan to offer a ‘living resort’  with an ‘exotic experience,'” said Brian Werner.

Surles’ Signature Resorts, www.budsurles.com, provides award-winning services for corporations, public agencies, and individuals in consulting resort design, master planning for resorts and RV parks, Greenfield land development, site consultations, and leading seminars in the resort and RV industries. With over 30 years experience, Surles has won national recognition for his management, development and leadership accomplishments and offers knowledge and expertise in developing resorts across the nation.

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Large RV Park Sprouts from Ontario Farmland

July 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

IPMwebbar A huge, 2,300-site RV park is taking shape in St. Thomas-Elgin, Ontario, and for anyone  planning to bring a recreational vehicle to the 2010 International Plowing Match (IPM) in  September, Linda Young is your go-to person, The Chronicle reports.

She has taken up the job of turning 116 acres on Highway 3, near the St. Thomas Municipal Airport, 100 miles east of Detroit, into an RV park to accommodate visitors coming to St. Thomas-Elgin for the festival starting Sept. 21.

She was approached three years ago by the 2010 IPM committee to plan parking for RVs. As Young and others observed at previous plowing matches, travelling in an RV is a preference for many visitors.

In total, she noted, there will be 2,300 sites — 2,156 served with water and electrical hook-ups.

That leaves about 200 unserviced lots for those interested in camping, she added.

Young said the site will be designed to hold a large entertainment stage in the middle, as well as a small general store.

“The entertainment will be mostly local,” she said.

Young, working with a map of the park in her home, is busy booking sites by the day.

Two types will be offered, one measuring 25 by 40 feet and the other, 30 by45 feet. Young said the trailer park will be adjacent to what will be known as the tented city, where most of the IPM activity takes place.

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Showdown Looms for Popular California RV Park

July 9, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Aerial view of Lawson's Landing, Marin County, Calif.

Aerial view of Lawson's Landing, Marin County, Calif.

California state officials joined the battle for Lawson’s Landing on Thursday (July 8), as the California Coastal Commission toured the 940-acre site at Dillon Beach, home to the largest stretch of sand dune habitat in private ownership on the coast — as well as the region’s biggest coastal campground and trailer park.

Commissioners appeared at the sprawling complex for a whirlwind, 90-minute visit, arriving two hours late after a bus scheduling mix-up forced them to carpool from Santa Rosa, where they were meeting, to the blue-collar Pacific beach resort on the lip of Tomales Bay, the Marin Independent Journal reported.

They were greeted by about two dozen environmental activists and campground advocates who tagged along as Charles Lester, senior deputy director, and John Dixon, a staff ecologist, talked about the land, its history and a master plan of improvements approved by the county.

After a commission edict in 2006, Marin officials curbed the campground operation in 2008, cutting camping space in half. Partisans on both sides of the fight are now girding for a showdown before the commission that could come as early as next month when the panel meets in San Luis Obispo.

Dixon gave a wide-ranging overview of the area’s sensitive sand dune and wetlands habitat, home to endangered red-legged frogs and snowy plovers along with meadows “chock-a-block full of native wetland plants.”

Commissioner Ross Mirkarimi, a San Francisco supervisor who had visited the area before, asked the staff to provide reports on the demographics of those who come to the resort, as well as determine how many of 213 trailer sites existed in 1965, before the Coastal Act was approved. “The math is important,” he said.

“We have a natural collision of a pre-Coastal Act practice with a modern-day assessment,” Mirkarimi said in an interview.

Other commissioners had little to say of substance, with several merely indicating the area was unique and the field trip educational. “I don’t have enough information to lean one way or the other,” said Commissioner Sara Wan of Malibu, noting commission staff has not yet filed an analysis of the issues.

A commission attorney warned those joining the tour that the event was not a public hearing and that no public testimony could be taken. The Lawson’s Landing plan has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

Earlier, two campground advocates rose at open time as the commission convened in Santa Rosa. “This is the only public campground in Marin County available to low- and moderate-income families,” said Cindy Whitley of Dillon Beach.

Mike Lawson, whose great uncle and aunt, Howard and Winifred Lawson, launched a pier operation in 1929 and later joined with family members in buying land, said he advised advocates “who could have been here by the busload” to stay away, because the commission had a busy agenda and it was not a time for public testimony.

Generations of blue-collar Californians have fled the heat of the Sacramento Valley and flocked to the area to fish, swim and frolic since the Depression. The complex developed without permits into an affordable coastal recreational oasis sporting rows of old aluminum trailers and an expansive meadow that hosts a summer-time surge of recreational vehicles and tent camps.

But environmentalists have sounded the alarm for years in a county otherwise noted for strict building rules, saying the operation tramples sensitive dune and wetlands habitat, wildlife and plants.

A county master plan seeks to protect sensitive areas while maintaining public access to the coast and providing a profitable business for owners Lawson and Carl Vogler. The plan calls for a new septic system, a new store and gateway improvements. It eliminates use of wetlands and reduces camp areas near wetlands from 57 acres to 16 acres.

The county board eased several regulations imposed by planners, saying campers could use sensitive “buffer” areas near wetlands for five years, rather than only three. At the time, Lawson’s attorney, former Coastal Commissioner Gary Giacomini, argued for 10 years, saying the campground could sell a conservation easement eliminating camping in the buffer area altogether — and get money to proceed with improvements. Because camping in the buffer areas can produce income of about $500,000 a year, a 10-year easement could be marketed for “real money,” Giacomini noted then.

Another opportunity for the campground to raise money is under consideration by Caltrans, which is weighing acquisition of a conservation easement at sites including Lawson’s to make up for loss of habitat for the red-legged frog during planned freeway improvements through the Novato Narrows.

As it stands, the county plan under review by the state commission allows 513 camping plots, including 213 travel trailer sites, as well as a limited but undetermined number of sites in an upland area. Currently, the campground has 1,233 camping sites. The county also limited trailer owners, who pay rent of $400 a month, to three months of occupancy a year. The area is not zoned for residential use, and county officials said occupancy rules boost tenant turnover and thus public access to the area.

Both trailer owners and environmentalists appealed to the commission.

Timothy Kassouni, representing trailer owners, said Thursday his clients take issue with regulations including the 90-day occupancy rule. Lester, the commission staff deputy, noted the panel could make occupancy regulations even tougher by imposing limits on tenancy during peak summer use.

The issue, Lester added, boils down to “Is it consistent with the Coastal Act?”

Catherine Caufield, a member of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, said the county plan is at odds with coastal regulations in a number of respects, including failure to protect wetlands and buffer zones.

Co-owner Lawson hopes the commission will allow him to continue operating a resort that has been part of the landscape for almost a century, but worries that piling on restrictions “will only lead to our business failure,” as he told county supervisors two years ago when flanked by consultants, including Rusty Areias, a former state parks director and former Coastal Commission chairman.

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FEMA Trailers for Austin Homeless RV Park

June 22, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Click here to watch a video on this project.

Austin, Texas, could soon create an RV park that houses hundreds of homeless people. The land sits near the airport. It was found unfit to live in because of the noise from airplanes taking off and landing, according to KXAN-TV, Austin.

“We’re now asking the FAA can we use this land for a homeless RV park the sight is ideal because it is not adjacent to a neighborhood and closely connected to mass transit,” said Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez.

However, some are against the proposal saying it could hurt the city. A similar proposal, at a different location, was rejected by the council two years ago.

“I feel like it will promote more homeless people to come to Austin which I wouldn’t prefer,” said Brenna Sura, an Austin resident.

Still, proponents of the homeless RV park say the city has to do something and soon.

“There’s not enough beds each night in the current shelters and there’s not enough affordable housing,” said Martinez.

Mobile Loaves and Fishes would fund the project through private donations and is purchasing some of the FEMA trailers used after Hurricane Katrina.

“The proposal is about 100 trailers and then about 50 fixed cottages,” said Martinez.

Karl James has been homeless the last year and is all for the idea but against the location.

“A lot of people won’t give us bus passes; it’s far to walk out there especially in the day heat of summer,” said James.

The city of Austin owns the land and would lease it to the non-profit organization but would not allow children to live there due to safety concerns. They will also have to consider security, whether to allow alcohol on site and possible surveillance cameras and is just in the early planning phases.

The resolution is expected to pass the city council Thursday.

“It just asks staff to determine whether or not we can use this site,” said Martinez. “We’re not trying to create five star living conditions we are literally trying to get them off of the street.”

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