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RVers Rally on Facebook to Fight Town Bylaw

April 13, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

The clampdown on recreational vehicles is still bothering people in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, even though the bylaw’s been on the books since 1985.

A Facebook group (Maple Ridge Bylaws) now has 84 members, people are talking about petitions and making a presentation to the city council to press for a review of the law, the Maple Ridge News reported.

“We’ve lived here for 25 years. We’ve had an RV ever since we lived here,” said Leeann Costa, who lives on Fir Street, just north of River Road.

“All of a sudden because somebody complained, we’ve got to rid of our RV. We’re not the only ones who got dinged on this road, all of my neighbors did.”

Costa lives on a quarter of an acre and stores the 12-meter-long (39.3 feet) RV at the side of her house. She recently got a letter from Maple Ridge’s bylaw department and learned she has remove her RV by April 20.

“Happy anniversary to me.”

Instead of the current bylaw that restricts vehicle length to 7.5 meters (24.6 feet), the rules should consider the amount of property there is for a RV, she said. As long as you’re not interfering with anyone else, then it should be OK to have any size RV on your property, Costa added.

According to Maple Ridge bylaws director Liz Holitzky, the bylaw has been place since 1985 and limits RV size for storage to 7.5-meter “standard across the Lower Mainland.”

And she appreciates many people may have had their vehicles there for years without an issue, but if a complaint comes in, her department still has to enforce it.

“Certainly in the past, there hasn’t been a lot of enforcement in this area. Complaints used to come in. I don’t know how much was done.”

But there’s no concerted effort to go after RV owners. Every visit or letter is generated by a particular complaint.

“We’re not doing any pro-active enforcement on this.”

What is happening is that as bylaw officers move through an area, neighbors who get a letter turn around and complain against somebody else. “If you’re going to pick on me, what about that one there?” Holitzky explained.

Neither is one person making the majority of complaints, she said. That does happen sometimes, but if that’s the case, the complaints go to the bottom of the pile. So far, the district has had about 80 complaints, but she doesn’t know how many letters have gone out asking people to move their vehicles.

The letters are being sent to all parts of the municipality and the district is trying to work with homeowners to find alternative sites.

Rusty Powers, who lives on 121st Avenue, has a 10-meter-long vehicle at the side of his house that’s already caught the attention of the bylaws department, which told him it would be sending a letter asking him to move it. He’s got a cottage in Birch Bay, where he’ll relocate it.

He’ll sign any petition calling for a review. “What do you own property for if you can’t park your own rig?”

As long as you’re not interfering with your neighbours, you should be able to park any kind of RV on your property, he says.

Long-time Hammond resident Eric Phillips wonders what’s behind the “flurry of enforcement” in his neighborhood.

“They’re not going to turn lower Hammond into West Vancouver no matter how hard they try.”

He’s lived in Hammond for 30 years and said there’s always somebody with a messy yard. And there’s no storage facility in Maple Ridge for RVs, he pointed out.

One neighbor was working on an El Camino and had to get rid of it. “They scared him into removing it,” Phillips said.

And somebody else had to take down a tarp from a roof, he added.

Concerned neighbors were to meet at district council Tuesday to figure out a strategy for getting a review of the bylaw.

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Santa Barbara RV Dwellers Fighting City Hall

March 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Attorneys for Santa Barbara, Calif., RV dwellers want a Superior Court Judge to throw out a settlement they made with the City in 2007, because, they say, the city isn’t honoring its terms, the Santa Barbara Independent reported.

Specifically, they argue that the city promised to prohibit RV parking at night, and during the day, in limited areas only—essentially between the 101 Freeway and the beach. Yet, in the last two years, “No RV Parking” signs have been sprouting up all over town, effectively discriminating against an entire class of vehicles and the people who live in them.

“Our position is the city did not honor the settlement,” said Joe Allen, one of two lawyers for the nonprofit group, Homes on Wheels (HOW).

The motion wants the 2007 settlement vacated and HOW’s original lawsuit reinstated. A hearing is scheduled for April 7.

In early 2003, the city passed an ordinance making it illegal to park an RV on any street in Santa Barbara overnight and for no more than two hours at a time during the day. Allen, and The Legal Project’s Glen Mowrer, challenged the law on behalf of HOW. The settlement they ultimately reached with the city was to have allowed RVs be prohibited at night in the waterfront, but allowed in other areas above the 101.

In 2009, when the city’s RV ordinance was updated, it gave the Public Works Department authority to post “No RV Parking” signs on any street that was within 500 feet of a school, a park, a hospital, a church or a handful of other locations. Browning Allen, transportation manager for the City Public Works Department, said such postings would only be considered when a number of RVs were congregating on a block and if someone complained.

“We get a request, then the police department will take a look,” said Allen. After that, his department evaluates whether the particular RVs are within 500 feet of one of the prohibited locations and if they are indeed causing a problem.

“For some of the areas where were having RVs parked, they were doing things that weren’t appropriate for our community,” said Browning, alluding to drug dealing and prostitution. Then he added, “We got a lot of RVs in town and not everyone is doing something that is a problem.”

As of September 2009, 136 “No RV Parking” signs had been posted around the city.

Nancy McCradie is one of HOW’s three original founders. She lived in an RV with her husband, “Protest” Bob Hanson, for decades.

“Everywhere that people park, or have been parking two or three (at a time), a sign goes up,” she said. What happens is, someone finds a spot, then another RV comes and parks there too, because nighttime spots are rare, and also because RV dwellers have something of a community. But as soon as more than one vehicle is located on a street, it draws the attention of city Transportation officials, McCradie said.

Hammett, 42, lives in an RV, which he parks on a street bordering the freeway. He’s legal there during the day, he said, but at night he drives to a private lot, where the owner is nice enough to let him stay.

“I’ve not gotten tickets, I’ve gotten warnings,” said Hammett. “At odd hours, (police) asked me to move on.”

“To selectively say that RVs are somehow harming the community, whereas monstrous buses or four-wheel tractor trailers aren’t, it makes one suspect that this is an attack against the poor who have no housing,” said Mowrer.

Between 120 and 140 vehicle dwellers are now participating in the New Beginnings’ Safe Parking Program, according to Nancy Kapp, who is one of its two managers. The program lets vehicle dwellers park in designated parking lots around the city and county. Some are public, some are privately offered by churches and business. But vehicle dwellers must to leave their lots by 7 a.m.

But for some people, even having to move a vehicle around the block is a stretch, Kapp said.

“You got to understand, these people are homeless. A lot of them don’t have money for gas.”

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Torrance, Calif., Relaxes Rules for RV Living

February 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Torrance, Calif., has relaxed restrictions on living in recreational vehicles on private property, but that didn’t stop opponents from complaining about the revised rules anyway, the Daily Breeze reported.

“I don’t think there should be so many restrictions of things we can and cannot do on our own property,” resident Dorothy Musser told the Torrance City Council at its Tuesday (Feb. 15) meeting.

Panelists generally agreed, but also noted that neighboring property owners shouldn’t have to put up with people sleeping in recreational vehicles in back yards or on driveways for extended periods of time.

“This ordinance is much more liberal than the way the ordinance reads right now,” Councilman Pat Furey said.

The ordinance was revised so a permit system could be established that will allow people to live in RVs for up to five 15-day periods annually for a maximum of 75 days. There will be a break of 15 days between permits.

Under the previous ordinance, people could live in an RV for no more than 14 consecutive days or a maximum of 30 days per year.

Ironically, the more liberal ordinance was written because city officials were unable to obtain convictions under the stricter, but more loosely worded previous version.

The city of approximately 150,000 is a western suburb of Los Angeles.

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Councilman May Solve RV Parking Spat

August 31, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Residents of Venice, Calif., who want restrictions on overnight parking for oversize vehicles can now move forward with petitions that would get city signs in place on their blocks, the LA Weekly reported.

Responding to criticism that his office has been slow to make moves when it comes to dealing the beach community’s “mobile homeless” issues, which include recent reports of sewage dumping, Councilman Bill Rosendahl this week opened his own floodgates for no-oversize-vehicle zones that would take effect overnight.

Residents would have to get two-thirds of their blocks to sign on in order to get the restrictions, which would apply to vehicles taller than seven feet or more than 22 feet long. They would be prohibited from parking on a block from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.

“For too long, residents of Venice have sought relief from the proliferation of RVs, campers and other oversize vehicles in front of their homes,” Rosendahl said. “The California Coastal Commission has wrongly denied Venice the same parking restrictions other communities have. This is one of the few tools we have at our disposal.”

The city council would still need to re-approve the parking zones, however.

The move comes amid an epic battle over deeper parking restrictions, called Overnight Parking Districts (OPD), rejected by the California Coastal Commission. The city of Los Angeles has filed suit arguing that the commission doesn’t have the right to restrict such resident-only zones in the municipality.

The OPDs have split Venice largely among the pro- and anti-homeless and, arguably, between old-school liberal residents and more moneyed newcomers who want the RV dwellers to go away.

Rosendahl, who has claimed the middle ground, has launched a program, called “Streets To Homes,” that would provide lot parking for RVs overnight while providing the rig-dwellers social services and eventually finding them more permanent digs.

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Rural RV Enclaves Irritate British Columbia City

May 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Paula Morrison moved to her rural neighborhood outside of Kelowna, British Columbia, about 10 years ago to raise her children and live a peaceful existence.

It was all going well until recently, when a cavalcade of RVs moved onto her street, increasing what was once a six-home neighbourhood into an area of residence for 34 families. And that number, she said, is ever-increasing, according to bclocalnews.com.

“I started noticing that one neighbor was moving trailers onto his property and I thought it was family or friends,” she said.

“Then I found out he was renting month-to-month. We have a wonderful pocket of farmland here and every time I wake up it seems like there’s another RV site opening.”

While making inquiries into how her neighbouhood could change so quickly, she learned that these RV farm sites are sanctioned by the city, through business licenses, and are an approved use of farmland by the Agricultural Land Commission.

It was a policy that didn’t resonate well with Morrison, as she believes most of the businesses have nothing to do with agriculture — paving over trees to bring in camping pads.

And worse yet, it’s creating a safety concern for the families who are using the land for traditional farming, she said.

“There’s a density, environmental and sustainability issue here,” she said, explaining that most of those who use the site aren’t tourists, they’re full-time residents.

“We already see a rise in police enforcement in our area, directly linked to the current 10-site trailer park/property that has been running for the past year (on) Morrison Road,” she stated.

“With two more properties approved and the addition of 18 more sites to the area and one directly adjacent to our property, we are gravely concerned with the increased negative impact of the tenants and the impact on the surrounding neighbours, and the safety of children.”

The concerns of Morrison and others are at the center of a soon-to-be scheduled public hearing that was discussed at the May 17 city council meeting.

City staff offered up some stricter bylaws to deal with the 14 to 16 RV agri-tourism sites currently operating on farmland around Kelowna, where neighbors’ concerns over the sanitary facilities provided, as well as the impact on agricultural land, run rampant.

Proposed regulations, which could come to be after the hearing, would address those issues by restricting the number of RV spots that could be made available on farms, and pushing the boundary of the RV site further into the landowner’s space, among other things.

Councillor Luke Stack has been speaking with Kelowna residents who are being impacted by these inpromptu campgrounds, and has visited a few to figure out what’s happening.

“I went to look at the ones at Morrison Street and they look very much like an established RV Park, and that disturbed me,” said Stack.

“The idea of agri-tourism is to support local farmers and enhance the viability of a particular farm.

“My concern is if the RV part of the park dominates the farm, that’s not supporting the primary goal of agriculture.”

At minimum, Stack said he’d like to see firm regulations on how many RV units can be put on a farm, minimum setbacks from neighbous and other farms, and that there is something binding people from making the RV site their permanent residence.

“When I looked around, some RVs had framed in the bottom of their trailers,” he said.

“The purpose was never to create more housing.”

That, in conjunction with misuse, has prompted Stack to believe the city should not only enforce the existing bylaws more ardently, but also stop issuing business licenses for future RV campground owners.

It’s not a point of view that resonated well with Catalina Dudka, of Caramoomel Natural Fine Foods.

Her family has farmed 20 acres of land at Morrison Road since the 1970s, and haa adapted several times to make ends meet.

RV agri-tourism, she said, is just a natural evolution to an industry that’s struggling.

“We needed more exposure, it was a complimentary thing. Visitors stay, do a tour of the facilities, love them, buy them and give them away, spreading the word,” she said.

There are two other RV farm sites on her street.

While hers has yet to get fully into the swing of things, she’s already invested $200,000 to meet city regulations.

If new restrictions come into play, she and her family will be put in a tough position.

“This business isn’t easy to do,” she said of the vegetable and fruit products business her parents started 20 years ago after farming left them high and dry.

“The food industry is very competitive and we needed to supplement our income with something.

“So we looked at the numbers of RVs and thought there’s a steadiness to the income we can appreciate.”

Her parents run the business, and they’re aging. That alone adds incentive to the agri-tourism model, she said.

“Once you set up, it doesn’t give a lot of work to upkeep, and it’s steady backup for when things aren’t so hot on the other side,” she said

Dudka added that drawing in travelers with home-made goods is a tradition that spans centuries, so she’s not sure what the fuss is all about.

She also couldn’t speak to knowledge of anyone who is abusing the model by not farming the land where RVs are parked.

Dudka believes that the city is lacking amenities, and those businesses are a natural evolution, filling the gap.

However, that’s not something that Morrison has any sympathy for as she’ll be at the upcoming public hearing making sure that people hear her concerns.

“Ultimately the policy should be reviewed to ensure that the bylaws support farmers and that it is not detrimental to farming,” she said.

“To ensure there is a connection to the land.

“There is very little if any agricultural work going on the properties I have mentioned.”

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Arizona County Eyes RV Sector in Housing Matters

October 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Yavapai County Planning and Zoning Commission in Prescott, Ariz., considered two actions this week affecting the use of RVs in their county.

The commission voted unanimously to recommend allowing residents to camp temporarily in recreational vehicles and travel trailers on private parcels of 10 acres or more. It would limit camping to 10 consecutive days as many as three times a year. The vehicles may not connect to utilities and owners may not rent them to other campers. The Board of Supervisors votes on the commission’s recommendation at its Nov. 5 meeting in Prescott, according to the Verde Independent, Cottonwood, Ariz.

Current zoning ordinances do not allow the public to camp on private property in RVs and travel trailers.

Commissioner Curtis Lindner wondered why the ordinance amendment specified 10 acres instead of five or fewer. Land Use Manager Steve Mauk said that he thought 10-acre parcels would have the least amount of visual impact on neighbors.

“This is a first step; let’s give it a go,” Commissioner Tom Reilly said. “We can always come back and re-address it.”

Commissioners discussed, but did not vote, on a zoning ordinance amendment allowing park model trailers as dwellings. Commissioners re-hear and could vote on the proposed amendment at their Oct. 21 meeting in Cottonwood.

The proposed amendment to allow park model trailers as dwellings is limited to models built after Jan. 1, 2003. The amendment excludes motorhomes, travel and fifth-wheel trailers and campers.

Park model trailers measure between 320 and  400 square feet. They are built on a single chassis, mounted on wheels and designed to connect to utilities. Residents in the park trailers would be limited to single families and one roommate or boarder.

The current ordinance allows park trailers in manufactured home parks, approved Planned Area Developments and as a secondary medical dwelling unit.

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