Rockland gives initial OKs to regulate camper living, lawn sales

By Stephen Betts | Apr 12, 2017

Rockland — The Rockland City Council gave unanimous preliminary approval Wednesday night, April 12, to a pair of local laws to restrict people from living long-term in campers and also keep people from turning lawn sales into regular retail businesses in residential neighborhoods.

There was no debate concerning the proposed lawn sale regulations, but two councilors voiced concerns about regulating the use of recreational vehicles for long-term living.

Formal public hearings and final votes are scheduled for May 15. If approved, the laws would go into effect June 15.

Councilor Valli Geiger said she does not see why there should be a problem if grandparents stop and visit their family for a month and live in their recreational vehicle during that time.

She also said that with the shortage of affordable housing, particularly in the summer, some people need campers to live. Businesses are also in need of workers who cannot afford other housing, Geiger said.

Councilor Ed Glaser also voiced concern over the measure.

"I'm hesitant to impose more regulations. I'm not in favor of gentrifying Rockland," Glaser said, also pointing out the housing crunch.

Both ended up supporting the measure in the preliminary vote.

Councilor Adam Ackor said there was a definite need for the ordinance. He said the code enforcement officer needs the tools to ensure that basic housing standards are being met.

"Without these tools, the code officer's hands are tied. This is common sense," Ackor said.

Mayor Will Clayton agreed, saying the code officer uses common sense when enforcing ordinances. He said there are three or four campers in the city which do not run and are filled with trash, yet people live in them.

He said people should not be living in such poor conditions.

In addition, he said that if there was a fire it would not only put the residents at risk but the fire and emergency medical services staff who respond.

Two people have died in campers during the past several years, the code officer said last week.

Code Officer John Root said he would be willing to work with the council to make adjustments needed including allowing family to visit longer than now proposed in the ordinance.

The owner of a property in Rockland would be allowed to live in a recreational vehicle or allow immediate family members to live in them from May 1 through Oct. 31 if the owner resides in a single-family or two-family residence on the lot.

Property owners can also allow visitors or relatives to stay in an RV for up to a week if the vehicle has a self-contained sewage disposal, potable water and electrical service.

Recreational vehicles can be parked and occupied on private property -- where there are no residential structures -- for no more than 48 hours during licensed festivals in the city.

In terms of the lawn sale ordinance, yard sales would be limited to four times a year for no more than three days.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit new items from being sold at yard sales.

The code officer has said there have been instances of people buying items and then bringing them to their homes and selling on an ongoing basis. He said this is creating a commercial retail business in residential zones.

Upon completion of lawn sales, all items must be removed from the yard.

Comments (7)
Posted by: Maggie Trout | Apr 16, 2017 23:00

Beautiful, and peaceful Easter Sunday evening.  Factories closed down.  Zero traffic over here on Lower Broadway.  Step out to see if there are stars and am hit with the toxic emissions of dryer sheets.  One of these days, maybe there will be an ordinance prohibiting the use of scented laundry products, and especially the dryer sheets.  I think it is the Union area school board that prohibits people from coming to meetings if they wear scents or their clothes are washed and dried with scented products.  Somewhere, the night air has no odor and is quiet of this evening.

Posted by: Maggie Trout | Apr 13, 2017 18:29

By the way, I wasn't remotely suggesting that the zoning was not appropriate.  I was responding to the notion that there was something grievous about a homeowner sleeping in their campers in the summer.  The mention of the football field tent city brought to mind the idea of festival vendors paying to use paved parking at the schools, with that money being split to offset school taxes and paid to the city for infrastructure support on a dedicated finance line.

Posted by: Maggie Trout | Apr 13, 2017 18:17

Interesting.  Junk and unsafe campers are one thing.  And a home's facilities can be used, with the recreational vehicle only used for sleeping.  But the tirade is interesting. 

Posted by: Sandra Schramm | Apr 13, 2017 15:47

Some of these are not mobile as wheels are gone or the tires are flat. Some have blue tarps as the roof leaks. Sewage dumping is illegal. If they are on wheels and can be driven they need to be licensed. A black water tank has to be dumped frequently so you have to take the camper to the WWTF or a campground to do so. Gray water dumping can attract rodents, ticks etc. and create odor. The city has to consider public health among many other issues when passing ordinances. Junk campers all over the city would look lovely.  The people who pay taxes have the expectation that their neighborhood will be protected from unsightly and unsafe living conditions through zoning and ordinances. Perhaps the city should have a tent city on the football field all summer. The Council and Code Officer both stated that there is room for leeway and that this ordinance is just a tool for enforcement when things get out of control. The Fire Chief endorsed this as well. RV Parks and campgrounds have bath houses and rest room facilities on sight. Without zoning and ordinances what is left? Property values would plummet and taxes would skyrocket for the city to offer services. This is not an unkind ordinance. These are recreational vehicles that belong in campgrounds for long term living.

Posted by: Maggie Trout | Apr 13, 2017 14:56

You can't be concerned about homelessness and flat-out object to people living in campers or RVs. 

Posted by: Amy Files | Apr 13, 2017 14:34

I am surprised that the City is considering (or already allows?) people to live in campers on their own property -- even if only for the summer. I did not realize the "camping" was an allowed use in residential neighborhoods? With the proliferation of short-term rentals any entrepreneurial home owner should move out into their yard and rent their home out all summer...

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Apr 13, 2017 03:45

It is encouraging to see the council work through some really tough decisions in  a very thoughtful manner. It's tough, yet shows it can be done.

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