Armed with $60 million in cash and $300 million in “additional liquidity,” Sun Communities Inc. is quickly expanding its footprint in the RV park and manufactured housing community industry.
Gary Shiffman, Sun’s chairman and CEO, briefly touched on the company’s expansion plan during an earnings conference call Thursday (April 25), following release of its first quarter financial report. In that report, Sun announced revenue of $103.38 million, and earnings of 93 cents per share.
Woodall’s Campground Management reported that Sun beat Wall Street’s expectations, a positive sign to shareholders seeking high growth out of the company. The stock closed Thursday at $48.77 per share, down 6 cents, on volume of 171,707 shares.
“The company has grown dramatically while operating metrics continue to set new standards and records with each passing quarter,” Shiffman stated. For example, compared to the end of 2010, Sun’s holdings are up by 48 properties or 45% to 184 properties in 25 states, compared to 17 at the end of 2010, Shiffman noted.
“When we also consider the successful efforts to strengthen the balance sheet, we see a transformed company. Our primary goal now is to bring performance to the bottom line through 2013 and 2014,” he said.
Its RV park acquisitions over the past 18 months have fueled much of the company’s growth, Shiffman noted in the news release and later during the conference call monitored by more than 20 investors.
Sun has invested over $250 million in the acquisition and quality enhancements of RV communities in 18 months, the bulk of them coming in purchases from Morgan RV Resorts.
“Recent acquisitions have served to diversify the company geographically into new markets as well as to expand our commitment to recreational vehicle properties,” Shiffman stated in the news release. “While formerly limited to seasonal operations during the months of December through April primarily in our Southern Florida and Texas RV communities, our geographic footprint now extends north to Wisconsin and the Eastern Seaboard up to Maine where the RV season is opposite of the South, running from June through October. We’ve created a year-round business with complimentary northern and southern seasons which will provide more efficient and effective use of our staff, marketing and RV systems.”
In addition, just last week (after the quarter had ended), Sun paid $9.8 million for the Jellystone Park of Western New York, its first resort in New York state.
Based in Southfield, Mich., Sun is branding these destination resorts as “Sun RV Resorts” which will operate over 30 communities from Arizona to Maine to Wisconsin to Florida.
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Louisiana’s St. James Parish Council ordered a six-month halt to construction and development of recreational vehicle parks and campgrounds.
The council voted 6-1 for the moratorium on Wednesday (Feb. 6) after opposition developed to plans by a property owner to build a new RV park near Grand Point, The Advocate, Baton Rouge, reported.
Councilman Jason Amato said that although the parish planning commission recently denied the property owner’s request for a permit to build the RV park because his plans did not comply with the parish campground ordinance, opposition from Grand Point residents prompted the Parish Council to reexamine the ordinance.
Some Grand Point residents had expressed “conflict” over the possibility of an RV park opening for business near their homes, Amato said.
The proposed five-acre RV park could handle 100 recreational vehicles or trailers, Amato said.
The parish campground ordinance currently regulates campgrounds for mobile homes, but does not say where RV parks or campgrounds can be built, Amato said.
Officials want to look into creating language in the ordinance to guide future RV park development by adding such things as buffer zones near residential neighborhoods and requiring the parks to have asphalt or concrete roads, Amato said.
Council legal adviser Bruce Mohon suggested he and parish Director of Operations Jody Chenier study RV park ordinances from nearby parishes and report back to the Parish Council with their findings.
Mohon stressed the moratorium imposed Wednesday did not have to last as long as six months and that the council could shorten it if need be.
A year ago, when Glenn Maurer, his wife Joan and two other couples were planning their 14-week, multi-destination RV excursion, they decided to make the host city for Super Bowl 2013 their first stop. Planning way ahead, they booked three sites at the French Quarter RV Resort, which over the next few days will experience its second busiest weekend on record. Here’s to planning ahead.
The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, reported that the retired Los Angeles firefighter and his group secured a coveted spot at the RV park located less than a mile from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“I’m from California, I’ll be rooting for the 49ers,” Maurer said as he prepared for a bicycle ride through the city.
Two slots over, another retired firefighter, Maryland resident Randy Cowan and his wife Tina, relaxed in the morning sun in front of their 43-foot RV, which sports a giant sticker featuring Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. By Sunday, the famous “brotherhood among firefighters” mantra could be put to the test.
While one of the former first responders’ team will finish second in the big game, both the Cowan and Maurer entourages are winners in the lottery to find RV hookups in the New Orleans area this weekend. Lots throughout the area are packed with Ravens, 49ers and non-partisan road warriors who just want to be where the action is.
“We’re completely filled,” said Katie Muller, assistant manager of the French Quarter RV resort, which has hookups for 52 RVs. “It has really been crazy.”
Muller said she has a waiting list of about 50 people who are hoping a last-minute cancellation might allow them access to the $84 a night lot right across Rampart Street from the French Quarter. In addition to hookups for water and electricity, the RV resort features a pool, hot tub, workout area, laundry and wifi. In terms of demand for slots, this weekend ranks right behind the melee that preceded the January 2012 BCS championship football game between LSU and Alabama.
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Editor’s Note: The following information about the future of RV parks and campgrounds and the RV industry appeared in a news release from Wert-Berater Inc. For more information call (888) 661-4449 or visit www.wert-berater.com.
Recovery for the campgrounds and RV parks industry has arrived. After fighting through declines, industry revenue is expected to perk up in 2012 and 2013. Wert-Berater Inc. forecasts that revenue will increase at an estimated annualized rate of 2.4% to $5.4 billion over the five years to 2017. Furthermore, industry revenue will increase 2.6% to $4.9 billion from 2012 to 2013.
Travel spending is expected to increase over the next five years. In 2013, domestic travel is projected to increase 4.1%, while inbound travel will rise 5.4%. Increased travel rates will benefit campgrounds and RV parks, which have felt the pinch as people canceled and delayed their trips. Over the five years to 2017, domestic travel is forecast to increase at an average rate of 3.3% per year, while inbound travel will increase at an average annual rate of 5.3%.
The industry will also benefit from the economy improving, unemployment rates declining and people spending more money. Consumer spending is expected to increase 1.2% in 2013, and some of this renewed spending is expected to go toward trips and travel. Over the five years to 2017, consumer spending is anticipated to increase at an average annual rate of 3.3%.
Changes in the relative price of domestic and international travel also play a large part in determining travel patterns. Over the past five years, the U.S. dollar has depreciated, which has encouraged domestic travel by making foreign travel relatively more expensive. This factor has also encouraged foreigners to visit the United States. These trends benefit the campgrounds and RV parks industry by encouraging Americans to travel domestically while spurring an influx of foreign tourists. Other non-economic factors include the time available to travel, cultural and family links and the age of travelers. The price of gas is an additional factor that feeds directly into travel costs, especially in driving-dependent industries such as the campgrounds and RV parks industry.
The performance of the RV dealers industry will improve through 2017. In 2013, its revenue is expected to increase 2.7% to $18.5 billion. Furthermore, revenue is forecast to grow at an annualized rate of 2.9% over the five years to 2017. However, RV sales will take years to return to their zenith, hampered by the lasting effects of wealth destruction on key customer markets’ ability to finance RV purchases. Current RV owners will also likely continue to choose domestic campgrounds and national parks over international tourist destinations because domestic travel remains a more cost-effective alternative to international travel.
The most promising case for long-term growth in RV sales is the aging Baby Boomer generation. The Baby Boomer population, consisting of people born from 1946 to 1964, numbers about 78.0 million people. This generation is expected to be wealthier and to live longer than any prior generation, making them prime targets for an RV lifestyle. Additionally, Boomers grew up during the height of the Boy Scouts’ popularity, resulting in an appreciation for the outdoors. According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), one-tenth of vehicle owners in this age group also own an RV.
The industry is expected to resume expansion as the economy improves. Demand for on-site rentals of RVs and for the storage of RVs will rise. However, sales of used RVs are expected to accelerate over the initial part of the next five years until the arrival of more robust economic growth. Moreover, as revenue grows, industry profit margins are also expected to creep up slowly, making the industry more appealing for potential entrants. Over the five years to 2017, the number of enterprises is expected to grow at an annualized rate of 0.7% per year to 13,431. Employment is also expected to increase at an average annual rate of 1.6% to 47,140, though the industry will continue to use temporary employees during peak guest periods.
The progressive aging of the population, particularly of people aged 55 to 75, will continue to positively influence demand and industry revenue growth as the economic situation improves. Continuing strong growth in RV shipments will support this increase. There will also be an increasing trend toward the franchising of campgrounds, with operators being associated with chains and benefiting from joint promotional activities and access to online information and reservation systems for guests. Significant increases in direct online bookings by guests are expected.
Overall, increasing investment in improving facilities and amenities for guests will remain important, even in low growth periods. Such amenities include the provision of wireless Internet access and access to health and fitness centers. These will need to be supported by continuing industrywide and national promotional campaigns promoting the benefits of RV and camping activities.
The developer who proposed opening a recreational vehicle facility in Bradford, R.I., is asking the state Supreme Court to review a lower court’s ruling that derailed the plans.
The Westerly Sun reported that Associate Justice Brian Stern of Washington County Superior Court upheld a decision by the Westerly zoning official, Elizabeth Burdick, who said that the plans developed by Larry LeBlanc’s Exco LLC called for what amounted to a mobile home park, a prohibited land use in the town.
Stern’s decision in September overturned a decision by the Zoning Board of Review, which had found in favor of the developer.
Were the Supreme Court to take the case and ultimately rule in Exco’s favor, it could pave the way for the company to develop a 225-unit facility on 54 acres.
The request to the state Supreme Court comes as town officials are considering an amendment to the town zoning regulations to prohibit camps and campgrounds in the town’s Rural Residential-60 and Aquifer Protection Overlay zones, the only areas where they are currently allowed. The Town Council has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed amendment for Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. If approved, the amendment would not apply to Exco’s application because it predates the new zoning proposal, officials have said.
In a motion filed with the Supreme Court, Exco’s lawyer, Kelly Fracassa, argues that Stern and Burdick failed to properly consider and distinguish between state laws that define mobile and manufactured homes, and those that define recreational vehicles.
Exco “still intends to develop the property as an RV park, if possible, and if not, still intends to develop land in Westerly as an RV park,” Fracassa wrote in the motion to the Supreme Court.
So many recreational vehicles owned by those working in the oil and gas industry were parked at the Washington County fairgrounds in West Virginia from November 2011 to May 2012 that the fair board was required to declare the main parking lot a RV park.
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel reported that in a licensing and permit process that started in October 2011 and was completed recently, former fair board members worked to complete all necessary steps in the process.
Now that all permits, licenses and insurance have been received for the Washington County Midway RV Park near the fairground’s main entrance, the area can be used in multiple ways: as a RV park, parking lot and a midway for fair concessions, said Gill.
City and state licenses, permits and insurance were applied for and received including flood insurance that costs $100 annually; a RV park license costing $250 per year; and a one-time fee to the city of Marietta’s engineering department for about $150.
Now, the RV park is licensed for 50 camping sites, with 25 utility poles and hookups for two RVs per pole. Sites offer RVers full hookup including electricity, water and sewer.
“It’s a plus for an RV park to have full hookup,” said Sandra Hickey, fair board treasurer.
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Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc. (ELS) acquired two properties, Victoria Palms Resort and Alamo Palms, in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, the company announced on Dec. 28.
The two properties contain approximately 1,765 sites on approximately 175 acres for a stated purchase price of $25 million. The company funded the purchase price with available cash.
Victoria Palms is an age-restricted, 1,122-site property with 270 manufactured home sites and 853 RV sites. Alamo Palms is an age-restricted, 643-site property with 293 manufactured home sites and 350 RV sites. The acquisition will compliment ELS’ South Texas portfolio of eight properties and 5,100 sites and further strengthen its presence in the market.
As of Dec. 28, ELS owns or has an interest in 383 properties in 32 states and British Columbia consisting of 142,679 sites. The company is a self-administered, self-managed, real estate investment trust (REIT) with headquarters in Chicago.
It’s no secret that RV parks and resorts in the Rio Grande Valley whose livelihoods depend on the annual influx of Winter Texans are facing several challenges.
Many of today’s winter visitors are younger and more mobile than their counterparts of years past, according to a news release from the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
“They may go to Arizona this year, Texas next year and Florida the next year,” said Kristi Collier, president and CEO of Welcome Home Rio Grande Valley, which markets 74 RV parks and resorts from Mission to South Padre Island.
Snowbirds who don’t have a history of spending their winters in the Rio Grande Valley are also more likely to be frightened by publicity about violence in Mexico, even though cities in the Rio Grande Valley have less crime than other popular winter resort destinations in other states.
Despite these challenges, RV parks and resorts across the Rio Grande Valley are finding that they can continue to grow their business base for the winter season if they offer lots of organized activities and continue to invest in new amenities for their parks, said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).
These new amenities include walking areas and agility courses for people with dogs as well as special pet-related activities.
“Dog parks are a big deal,” said Jacqueline Gomez, who is the marketing director for Llano Grande Lake Park Resort & Country Club in Mercedes, Victoria Palms Resort in Donna and Alamo Park Mobile Home & RV Park in Alamo. She said each of the resorts has two, off-leash dog areas.
The dog park at Bentsen Palm Village in Mission has become so popular that the owners recently added a second park so that guests could have separate running and play areas for big dogs and small dogs.
“About 70% to 75% of our guests have dogs, so these kinds of amenities are important,” said Juanita Carvajal, Bentsen Palm Village’s general manager.
Of course, while pet friendly amenities are attractive to Winter Texans, that’s not the only attraction at Bentsen Palm Village. The 250-site resort recently set aside an open area of the park where its guests can grow their own organic fruits, vegetables and herbs.
“It’s like a community garden,” Carvajal said, “but we give each guest a 10 by 10-foot section where they can put a stake with their name on it. They often grow kale, peppers, tomatoes, onions and radishes. Sometimes, they grow so much they bring it into the office to share.”
Bentsen Palms also markets its proximity to the World Birding Center while also highlighting the rare birds and other wildlife that make their way into the park.
But while nature oriented activities are always popular, RV park and resort operators are finding that other types of organized activities are also critical for today’s Winter Texans.
El Valle del Sol in Mission offers more than 100 activities each week for its guests. “Winter Texans want to be active,” said park manager Irma Sanchez.
Best Parks in America has announced the addition of two new affiliated resorts, The Great Outdoors RV Resort in Franklin, N.C., and Emerald Desert RV Resort in Palm Desert, Calif. Heading into 2013, there are currently 68 affiliated properties in the Best Parks in America network, according to a news release.
“Best Parks in America is thrilled to add two new affiliates in these two outstanding vacation destinations,” said David Gorin, president of Best Parks. “The Great Outdoors RV Resort is the first Best Park affiliate in North Carolina and the addition of Emerald Desert brings the number of California parks to four including facilities in Anaheim, Palm Springs/Palm Desert and the northern California wine country around Plymouth.
“Adding Best Park affiliates in both of these markets is another step forward for the Best Parks network. Coming on the addition of four new parks in Connecticut, Florida, California and Arizona announced in late September, we hope these latest new Best Parks will catch the attention of park owners in other key markets.”
Owned by Ron and Mary Blake, The Great Outdoors RV Resort is their first RV park venture. Not new to hospitality, the Blakes have a long history in the industry having owned country inns in Australia and Vermont, winning accolades and awards for excellence.
Located in the western North Carolina mountains in popular Franklin, the resort earned recognition in the top 300 RV parks of over 12,000 inspected by Trailer Life in the U.S. The resort is known for its friendly staff and panoramic vistas of the beautiful Smoky Mountains and is big-rig, motorcycle and rally group friendly.
People living in campers in Williston, N.D., will have to get rolling, but they have a few months to find a new place to park.
The Williston City Commission on Tuesday (June 26) unanimously approved an ordinance that makes it illegal to live in an RV outside of a designated RV park, the Dickinson Press reported.
Campers in residential areas will have to relocate by Sept. 1 and RVs in commercial or industrial areas will have until Nov. 1.
The penalty for violating the ordinance is a $500 fine for each day of noncompliance.
Commissioners have said the hundreds of RVs around the city create health and safety hazards. In previous meetings, they have cited cases of people urinating outside their campers, inappropriately dumping waste and illegally hooking up to utilities.
Several RV parks in the Williston area are under construction to serve the oil and shale exploration workers, but what they will charge for rent is unclear. Mayor Ward Koeser said he’s heard rent may be $750 to $800 per month.
Paul Miller, who lives in an RV parked in a church driveway, said the rent is too steep for service workers like him and he expects many will leave town.
“I’ve come to say goodbye to the city if this law passes,” Miller said.
He told commissioners he wishes the city would have charged campers a weekly or monthly fee until the RV park rates came down to a reasonable amount.
Miller, who said his employer didn’t want him to say publicly where he works, plans to continue working in Williston this summer and move to Montana before Sept. 1.
He predicts that lines in restaurants and other businesses will only get longer as a result of the ordinance.
“It’s going to hurt this city of Williston,” Miller said.
Koeser said he’s received public comments on both sides of the RV ban, but an increasing number of comments have been concerns and frustrations about the RVs.
“I needed to protect our residents who have lived here, who pay taxes here,” said Koeser, adding that approving the ordinance was difficult for commissioners. “I need to protect the quality of life I think they deserve.”
Many of the construction workers building Williston’s permanent housing live in RVs at work sites.
The ordinance allows building contractors to apply for $200 monthly RV permits to accommodate those workers. That will be reevaluated in a year.
The ordinance does not affect people living in cars or other vehicles.
Williston Police Chief James Lokken said the department will determine how to enforce the ordinance. Officers may initially give out warnings.
“It’s going to be tough,” Lokken said. “We’re just hoping people will move on their own.”