Russell Baehre hopes the campground real estate market will pick after this month’s presidential election. “I think after the election there will be a lot of people actively pursuing properties,” he said.
Woodall’s Campground Management reported that Baehre, who has worked as a Kerrville, Texas-based campground real estate broker for over 25 years, said sales always slow down before a presidential election.
And while the recession and tightening credit have slowed the pace of campground sales in recent years, campgrounds, RV parks and resorts are generating interest from investors because of their profitability.
“Our returns are better than other investments,” Baehre said, adding that cash buyers of $1 million parks could see returns of 10% or more on their investment each year, which is much higher than they could get from banks, CDs and other investment vehicles given today’s low interest rates.
“That’s $100,000 in income versus maybe $10,000 on CDs,” Baehre said.
Baehre added that campground occupancies are growing in many areas, fueled not only by travelers, but also by people who live and work in their RVs full time, including oil industry workers, doctors, nurses, accountants and other consultants.
The challenge, however, is convincing banks to lend money on campgrounds, RV parks and resorts.
John Grant, president of Park Brokerage Inc. in San Diego, said most of his transactions involve seller financing.
“Unless the seller is in a position to carry the financing, the property often cannot be sold,” Grant said. “You have people who want to sell and people who want to buy. But it’s hard to find transactions that will work.”
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Whether Durango RV Resort will pay transient occupancy tax (TOT) to Red Bluff, Calif., is still undecided after the City Council Tuesday (July 19) voted to table a decision to amend the TOT ordinance to explicitly include recreational vehicle parks and campgrounds.
According to the Red Bluff Daily News, the council voted 3-1-1 to table the decision as recommended by Councilman Rob Schmid. Councilwoman Daniele Jackson voted no, and councilman Wayne Brown was absent.
Durango owner Gary Breen questioned the council’s legal ability to approve the amendment, which would change and expand the existing tax base.
Proposition 218, passed by California voters in 1996, requires local governments to allow those who would be affected to vote on proposed taxes.
The law does not apply in this case, as this is not a new tax, City Attorney Richard Crabtree said. The city has never wavered on its position that the ordinance already includes RV parks and campgrounds.
“We don’t view this as an expansion of the tax base, so Prop 218 does not prohibit adoption of the ordinance before you,” Crabtree told the council.
Schmid stopped short of giving his own interpretation as to whether the ordinance already includes RVs, but said if the city is looking at rewriting the ordinance to clarify it, then it means the ordinance is open to interpretation and subjected to becoming matter for litigation. He wanted a second opinion on whether approval of the amendment would conflict with the law under Proposition 218.
The Red Bluff-Tehama County Chamber of Commerce supports the proposed amendment because it would create an ordinance that would leave no doubt, supposition or room for interpretation as to whether RV parks and campgrounds are covered in the TOT ordinance, said Chairman Greg Stevens, who spoke on behalf of the Chamber Executive Committee.
However, the chamber does not agree with the city’s interpretation that RV parks and campgrounds are already included in the ordinance as it is written, nor does it support the city wanting to collect retroactive taxes from Durango, especially considering that some hotels were forgiven following a 2009 audit that showed they had not been in compliance with the ordinance but promised to comply going forward, Stevens said.
“It’s not Durango’s fault it took the city a year to change the ordinance,” he said.
A handful of speakers representing downtown businesses and Durango employees and guests spoke on behalf of the RV park pointing out the many benefits and contributions it has provided to the city and community. They cautioned the city about the message it was sending in trying to single out Durango.
“It’s sad that the city would go after the best thing that’s happen to Red Bluff in a long time,” said Irene Fuller.
The dispute between the city and Durango over TOT has been ongoing since Durango opened in 2008. There have been ongoing efforts since 2009 to get Durango to voluntarily comply, Crabtree said.
The city estimates Durango owes about $42,000 in TOT going back to June 2010.
A fast-moving brush fire temporarily closed Interstate 10 in Texas on Sunday afternoon and chased residents from an RV park in Kendall County where several vehicles and facilities were destroyed before the blaze was contained around nightfall, according to a report in the San Poder Subliminal Antonio Express.
“It was terrifying,” said Kathy Lowell, who fled her home in the Top of the Hill RV Resort at the urging of emergency responders who battled the wind-stoked fire in triple-digit temperatures.
Mere minutes after they first smelled smoke, the Lowells say, the fire had moved into the park, igniting propane tanks and ammunition stored in the roughly 70 travel trailers and recreational vehicles.
“We couldn’t hardly breathe due to the black smoke,” said Walt Lowell, 61, as he waited nearby at Po-Po Family Restaurant, the unofficial evacuation center, for permission to return to inspect the damage. “You could hear stuff blowing up left and right.”
The wildfire is one of many that have spread through drought-stricken Texas.
Since the start of fire season Nov. 15, the Texas Forest Service has recorded 12,189 fires that have burned 3,012,876 acres.
That is 1,000,000 acres more than the previous record, set in 2006, forest service officials said.
The fire erupted from an unknown cause about 2:30 p.m. along the interstate between Boerne and Comfort.
It burned 140 acres before being subdued by roughly 85 firefighters from area volunteer departments and the Texas Forest Service, which sent an airplane and two bulldozers, according to Boerne Fire Chief Doug Meckel.
“It got into the dry cedar and moved aggressively,” Meckel said. “When it’s this dry with this much wind, it’s ideal for a fire to burn.”
The hours of uncertainty took their toll on displaced residents such as Joshua and Julisa Allen, who thought that their travel trailer was well clear of a distant brush fire they observed upon returning home from lunch.
Minutes later, they felt the heat and smelled the smoke of the nearing fire.
“The smoke was so thick and the ash was falling like snow,” said Joshua Allen, 41. “We said, ‘We’ve got to get out of here.’”
Julisa Allen, who’s expecting a baby in a few months, said, “It was real scary.”
Although some residents groused about not being allowed to collect valuables or move their vehicles out of harm’s way, firefighters said their emphasis was preserving lives, not property.
“It was an urgent situation,” said Waring volunteer firefighter Brian Brawner, 53. “When all those propane tanks and stuff started popping off, it was scary.”
James Allerkamp, assistant chief of the Comfort Volunteer Fire Department, said the fire scorched the RV park on the north side of I-10, then turned with the wind toward homes on the south side of the highway.
“It was kind of rare to have multiple structures threatened on both sides of I-10,” he said during a break.
Preliminary damage assessments indicated that six or seven RVs were destroyed, as well as three cars and a motorcycle, plus the RV park’s clubhouse, laundry room and pavilion.