Monday, September 26, 2022

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
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Commissioners give green light to new regulations for RV parks

Alamance County’s commissioners have cranked the ignition on a new set of rules for developments that cater specifically to recreational vehicles, campers, and other motorized dwellings.

The commissioners gave their unanimous nod to these new regulations on Monday as part of a broader swath of revisions to the county’s unified development ordinance. These changes also include new criteria for mobile home parks that temporarily close to retain their grandfather exemptions. They also unhitch the rules for new mobile home parks from RV-oriented developments, which had previously been lumped together under the same standards.

As a corollary to this regulatory divorce, the county’s planning department drew up a new set of provisions for RV parks that went before the county’s planning board several months ago. The planning board’s members reworked these proposals based on input from local developers. The results of this back-and-forth then reached the commissioners, who demanded additional tweaks after a state-mandated public hearing in May.

The rules that the commissioners had before them on Monday were, therefore, a fourth or fifth generation descendant of the planning department’s original draft of the proposed regulations. This iteration included lot-size provisions that had been tailored for motorized vehicles. It also contained setbacks, landscaping buffers, and so-called “land spacing” provisions that were intended to insulate any new RV parks from other forms of development.

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In previous drafts of the rules, the land spacing requirements had been among the more contentious provisions for the county’s aspiring RV park developers. Even in their final iteration, the regulations demanded a zone of separation ranging from 25 to 150 feet between a new RV park and certain “protected” structures, such as schools, churches, single family homes, playgrounds and public parks. The final draft nevertheless offered developers the potential alternative of a five-foot berm in the event that it proves unfeasible for a developer to adhere to the letter of the land spacing requirements.

Another sticking point for developers had been a proposed rule that would’ve required a six-foot opaque fence or some other form of screening if any portion of a park is visible from a protected structure that lies within 1,000 feet of the development.

Before the commissioners rendered their final verdict on Monday, developers Philip Morgan and Myron Prevatte availed themselves of a designated public comment period to share some of their lingering misgivings with the county’s governing board.

Prevatte assured the commissioners that he was generally pleased with the draft that was up for consideration that evening. He nevertheless suggested “a few small changes,” including the elimination of the land-spacing provisions. Prevatte insisted that it’s ludicrous to segregate an RV park’s occupants from the very places that they’re likely to frequent when they aren’t traveling around in their campers.

“People like you and I occupy RV parks and campers,” he told the commissioners. “They are not aliens. They go to school; they go to church; they go to parks and playgrounds…So why can’t we put a nice RV park next to these things.”

Morgan also raised some objections to a few of the proposed regulations, although he, like Prevatte, was generally optimistic about the ultimate form these new rules would take.

Philip Morgan

“It’s been a long process and I hope that after tonight, we’ll have an ordinance that’s good for all,” he insisted. “We’re not looking for something bad for the community. We want to create something good.”

Some of the commissioners were even more caustic in their initial criticism of the proposed rules than the two developers had been.

The specificity of some of the proposed landscaping provisions seemed particularly excessive to commissioner Pam Thompson.

“It just seems like we’re putting a lot of little picky things on these [developments].” – County commissioner pam thompson

“It just seems like were putting a lot of little picky things on these [developments],” she said before she admonished the county’s planning director that the county will ultimately have to enforce whatever rules are enacted based on her recommendations.

Meanwhile, commissioner Bill Lashley excoriated several of the potential provisions – beginning with the apparently recent inclusion of “playgrounds” within the proposed list of protected structures.

County commissioner Bill Lashley

“It feels that the county’s planning department is just throwing things up against the wall to see what will stick. Some of the things that you have asked these men to do is completely unacceptable…I think the planning department has asked these men for too much.”  – County commissioner Bill Lashley

“It feels that the county’s planning department is just throwing things up against the wall to see what will stick,” he protested. “Some of the things that you have asked these men to do is completely unacceptable…I think the planning department has asked these men for too much.”

These sundry objections eventually prompted Steve Carter, the vice chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, to suggest that he and his colleagues send the draft back to the planning board with some explicit instructions about what they would like to see in the rules.

“We’ve gotta have some regulations. But instead of kicking it back and saying ‘start over’…we need to make some clear indications of what we want to make sure we get something that works.”  – County commissioner vice chairman Steve Carter

“We’ve gotta have some regulations,” he said. “But instead of kicking it back and saying ‘start over’…we need to make some clear indications of what we want to make sure we get something that works.”

The prospect of remanding everything back to the planning board fell flat with John Paisley, Jr., the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, who pointed out that the commissioners have already send the proposed rules back to the drawing board several times since they were originally proposed.

In the end, commissioner Craig Turner suggested some modifications that he felt would make the proposed rules more palatable. Among other things, Turner proposed a 10-foot reduction in the prospective property line setback of 50 feet. He also recommended a 300-foot threshold for screening rather than the draft’s 1,000-foot mandate, and he called for a uniform land-spacing requirement of 50 feet for all RV parks, as opposed to the draft’s proposed range of 25 to 150 feet, which would’ve varied based on a development’s size.

The board of commissioners proceeded to vote 5-to-0 in favor of the proposed rules with Turner’s suggested adjustments.

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