They are wide and tall – especially, tall – and make a mockery of the fences and shrubs meant to shield them.
They aren’t supposed to. Actually, they shouldn’t even be noticeable. Or can they be?
For years Wellington, Fla., has enforced its laws so that a recreational vehicle or boat must be parked on the side or rear of a lot and behind a 6-foot wall, fence or landscaping – the maximum height village rules allow, The Palm Beach Post News reported.
But, perplexingly, village rules also say that the vehicle must not be “clearly visible” to drivers or neighbors.
“If it’s 15 feet high but behind a 6-foot fence, then I’m sorry, but my sight says it’s clearly visible,” resident Donna Weaver said.
The rules are clearer in other Palm Beach County towns, though they vary widely.
Wellington residents’ frustration with the contradiction is nothing new, Mayor Pro Tem Carmine Priore said.
Neither is his own.
“You cannot have a requirement that says you can’t have a hedge that’s more than 6 feet and then expect to obscure a motorhome or a travel trailer,” Priore said. “You can’t cut the whole top of the boat off and set it beside it. You can’t take the top of a travel trailer off.”
His solution, which he’s promoted for years without success, is to change the rules limiting how tall landscaping can be.
“Allow the hedges to grow to hide whatever the homeowner wants them to cover,” Priore said. “But they’ve got to maintain them. They’ve got to get someone out there on a tall ladder .”
That could lead to trouble, Councilwoman Anne Gerwig said, because huge plants often have huge roots, and that might rip up sidewalks and streets.
“I don’t want to solve one problem and create a bigger problem,” Gerwig said.
Abundant roots haven’t been a problem in Juno Beach, though, which allows landscaping to grow high as needed to block a boat or RV.
“If you could see the tippity top of it, we don’t find that’s a violation,” said Damian Peduto, the town’s planning and zoning director.
Palm Beach Gardens is another city that doesn’t limit the height of landscaping. Others, such as Lantana – which prides itself as a fishing village – don’t care if RVs or boats are screened at all.
No matter how Wellington’s rules read, it’s important not to prevent residents from being able to store their vehicles on their land, Councilman Howard Coates said.
“If we start tinkering with the rules, we’d be altering some of the fundamental bases on which some of the people in this community purchased their property,” Coates said.
It’s unclear how many boats and RVs are in the village, but Wellington code staff is inventorying what it finds in the village’s 45 square miles. Eventually it will present those findings to the village council, which will tackle the issue.
Mayor Darell Bowen was the rare council member who said the code for storing recreational vehicles leaves no room for confusion.
“That thing clearly means that you have to have it hidden,” Bowen said. “If you can’t screen it with a 6-foot fence, you’re out of luck. You have to put it in a storage place.”
In fact, that was how the rules worked in Wellington before the community incorporated in 1995.
“It had to be unseen,” Bowen said. “If we knew it was there, or saw it there, it had to go to a storage place.”
That’s how Donna and Alan Weaver, who bought their lot in 1976, remember it. Their suggestion: the village could mark a piece of land for storage and charge users a minimal fee.
“It’s a way for the village to make money and for the village to stay nice looking,” Donna Weaver said.
What other communities do
Municipal rules for buffering of RVs and boats stored on residential lots vary throughout Palm Beach County.
Wellington: Must be stored on side or rear of property, “not clearly visible” from the street or abutting properties and screened by a masonry wall, fence or landscaping at least 6 feet high. But Wellington’s land development regulations say that walls, fences and landscaping along property perimeters can be no higher than 6 feet.
Juno Beach: Must be completely screened on three sides in side or rear yards. Screening can be a building, wall, fence or landscaping.
Palm Beach Gardens: Must be stored on side or rear of property and screened ‘from direct view’ by a 6-foot wall or fence and ‘dense hedge’ at least 6 feet tall within two years of planting. In general, there are no maximum heights for the hedge.
Lantana: No screening required. Must be parked on a paved surface anywhere on lot.
Boynton Beach: No screening required. Can be stored in a carport or driveway. Also can be stored in back yard, not closer than 5 feet from the lot line or in the side yard not projecting beyond the front roof line.
Royal Palm Beach: No screening required. Can be stored on driveway or side of property. Boats parked on the sides of corner lots must be on pavement.