Over 180 people, many RV enthusiasts, packed the Alamogordo (N.M.) City Commission’s regular meeting Tuesday (March 22) to protest a possible RV ordinance the city was to discuss that night, but no action was taken and it appears RV owners made their point with commissioners, the Alamogordo Daily News reported.
Several people voiced their opposition to an ordinance aimed at regulating RV storage in city limits, although not all 24 who had signed up to speak actually addressed the commission. Many passed, saying their friends and neighbors had voiced their concerns.
Commission chambers were packed, and the Municipal Courtroom was filled as well, with RV owners concerned about the ordinance. Many expressed their support for keeping existing ordinances on the books as they are. Some said passing the ordinance would force them to put their RVs in storage, which they can’t afford on their fixed incomes.
City attorney Stephen Thies said the existing ordinance says RVs can be stored on residential property if they are not too large, and they must be parked 2 feet back from a sidewalk or 5 feet back from a curb if there is no sidewalk. Thies said in a recent look around Alamogordo, code enforcement counted 100 RVs and 18 were not in compliance with the existing ordinance.
Some points of the ordinance Thies drafted for discussion Tuesday night included:
- No parking an RV in front of the front building line on the property.
- No parking any RV on a residential lot if it is larger than 200 square feet.
After many RVers had spoken up, Mayor Ron Griggs said there was no need for the commission to take any action on the ordinance it had been set up primarily for discussion purposes. He said commissioners had heard from some people who would like to see such an ordinance, so the city had put the discussion together to see what the greater public had to say. He said issues with RVs are better handled between neighbors rather than having the city get involved.
Griggs said it was fun having a crowd of people at a commission meeting for a change.
“Every so often we get to see how the local democratic process works,” Griggs said.
Griggs assured everyone that if the issue comes back up, the city will let them know.
“We don’t try to sneak these off and pass them in the dead of the night,” Griggs said. “So we appreciate you all being here.”
The RV community spoke and the city of Lake City, Fla., listened.
Signs posted at Wal-Mart that announced “No RV Camping or Sleeping Enforced,” were removed on Thursday (Feb. 3), the Lake City Reporter reported.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” said City Manager Wendell Johnson.
The city of 10,000 is located off Interstate 75 near the north entryway to the Sunshine State.
Previously, a flood of letters and e-mails were sent to the Lake City Reporter, as well as Johnson, opposing the enforcement.
A letter was sent to Lake City Wal-Mart District Manager Michael Brown that morning stating, “You are in no way obligated to have these signs posted and may remove them at your convenience.”
The signs were first displayed in January after the city was asked to enforce its law by the Columbia County Tourist Development Council (TDC).
According to Section 4.2.16 of the city’s Land Development Regulations, “No major recreational equipment shall be used for living, sleeping or housekeeping purposes when parked or stored on a lot in a residential direction or any other location not approved for such use.” Columbia County has an identical regulation.
The issue of RV camping has been ongoing for more than three years, Johnson said. It was first brought to his attention after becoming city manager in 2009.
It came up again at a TDC meeting in October, and Johnson contacted the Wal-Mart manager to discuss a possible solution which led to the signs being posted.
There was a tremendous reaction from the RV community, locally and nationwide, once the signs went up, Johnson said.
“For the most part it was negative,” he said. “It cast a terrible reflection on Lake City.”
Based on the feedback, he and Mayor Stephen Witt felt something had to be done, Johnson said.
“We thought the best thing to do would be to take (the signs) down,” he said.
A letter was sent July 7, 2009, from the TDC to the city which represents its thoughts, said Harvey Campbell, executive director. Either the ordinance should be enforced or taken off the books.
The TDC has no intention of pushing the issue any further either way or to criticize the city, he said.
“The city has taken an action it believes in the best interest of the community and we support that,” Campbell said. “We’re ready to move on.”
Already calls have come in from RVers with positive comments, Johnson said. Overall camping at the store has never been a problem.
The intent of the law is to keep someone from living in unauthorized areas, he said. It wasn’t intended to prohibit RVers from stopping at Wal-Mart.
“We as city leaders have to be wise in interpretation of the law,” he said. “The law has a spirit and intent to prohibit conditions contrary to public interest.”
It is not a problem with him for RVers to stop in the city to stretch their legs, catch a few hours napping and visit local businesses, Johnson said.
“It’s difficult to please everybody,” he said. “Looking at what would be required and what has been asked to enforce the law creates a condition contrary to the best interest of the community, and not just Lake City but Columbia County.”
The law can’t be done away with because it will create problems and people will take advantage of the situation, he said. “We’ve got to have some standards,” Johnson said.
If there is a problem with someone camping for an extended number of days, the law will be enforced on a case-by-case basis, he said.
Suggestions are welcomed if someone thinks there is a better way to handle the situation, Johnson said. Putting the signs up created a worse problem.
“We want RVers to view Lake City as a friendly place to stop,” he said. “We don’t want any tourists coming through thinking we’re unfriendly.”
City officials in Fort Worth, Texas, are ready to begin looking at parking requirements for recreational vehicles, boats and trailers within all districts zoned residential, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported.
The code today is very restrictive, Tom Elgin, community development manager said at the Planning and Zoning meeting Monday (Aug. 23).
“By our current code, many recreational vehicles are not allowed to be within single family residential districts,” he said.
The process could amend it so that residents could park some of the larger recreational vehicles on site within single-family residential districts, Elgin said.
By easing its restrictions on RV parking, the city would become one of the nation’s largest to do so, as many other cities are now imposing tougher regulations on RV owners.
“During the last discussion, the code was to look at allowing recreational vehicles in certain situations at certain locations,” he said.
During the development of the unified development code update in 2008, there were proposed modifications to parking requirements for recreational vehicles, boats and trailers within all districts zoned residential, he said. The city council adopted the updated unified development code that November, without proposed amendments to the parking requirements, Senior Planner David Hawkins said.
“They’ve been kind of put on the back burner for the last two years,” Hawkins said. “Now that we’ve gone through several development projects, we are ready to bring it back fourth.”
Since then, city staffers have counted 89 potential violations of parking of recreational vehicles, boats and trailers within the city limits. Since May, there have been at least seven possible violations. A code case can either be initiated by a code compliance staffer or by a citizen.
Trailers made up about 62% of the violation and miscellaneous vehicles including jet skis, go-carts and motorcycles came in second at about 18%.
Trailers are allowed under the current unified development code as long they’re less than 11,000 pounds. However, some trailers investigated were being used to store other vehicles or equipment, which violates the code.
The bulk of the cases also involved the issue of whether a vehicle on a driveway or on another surface not acceptable by city regulations.
This is the first step into an ongoing process, Elgin said.
“I am assuming it will get to an ordinance changes, there will certainly be public hearings, but I anticipate a meeting or two more of discussion,” he said.
Flagler Beach, Fla., city commissioners say they support allowing residents to park recreational vehicles on their property — but can’t agree where exactly they can be positioned, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Commissioners debated the issue for nearly an hour at a meeting last week before following Interim City Manager Bernie Murphy’s recommendation they individually submit to the city clerk a list of what they don’t want to see in an amended ordinance.
At a meeting next month, commissioners could then discuss the list and then choose the ones they want Murphy to put in the ordinance.
“It probably won’t be more than 10 or 11 don’ts,” he said. “You’re gonna allow them, but these are the conditions.”
Commissioner Ron Vath agreed.
“I think if we write the ordinance in that fashion, it won’t be so convoluted,” he said. “I think it’ll be easier to understand.”
At issue for Vath and other commissioners were the details of the proposed ordinance, such as pinpointing how many days visitors can stay in an RV, parking in the setbacks and whether the vehicle be operable and registered.
Some parts of the proposed amended ordinance — such as requiring visitors to obtain a permit to stay in their RVs for 24 hours — aren’t good policy, said Commissioner Linda Provencher.
“You can’t enforce it,” she said. “They’d be out of town before code enforcement got there.”
John Feind said he was disappointed that the original intent of the ordinance — allowing people to park RVs in their backyards — now appears lost.
Residents should be allowed to park their RVs behind their homes as long as the vehicle doesn’t hang over the setback, he said.
“That’s simple,” he said. “That’s all I’m looking to do.”
But if residents and visitors can properly park their vehicle in the back or side yards or in the driveway of the home, let them do it, Provencher said.
“I say if it can fit in your yard, who cares?”she said.
The ordinance can be written to accommodate those who may not be able to park in the backyard to obtain the city’s permission to properly park elsewhere on their lots, said City Attorney Drew Smith.
But allowing RV parking in front of windows could pose a fire safety issue, Vath said.
“I don’t see parking in front of windows, especially when it could be a bedroom window,” he said. “You can’t always enter the front door. Sometimes you have to go in through a window where people are sleeping.”
The ordinance also should address where boats can be parked since most can be the same size as recreational vehicles, said Mayor Alice Baker.
“I really can’t see the difference in a cabin cruisers blocking the front door, blocking the windows, blocking the side where firemen can’t get in than an RV,” she said. “If we’re gonna talk about RVs, we should talk about boats.”