Clallam County to address recreational vehicles

Possible ordinance may limit living quarters based on lot size

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners have weighed in on a staff proposal to regulate recreational vehicles in unincorporated areas.

The three commissioners agreed Monday there should be no limit on the number of days a person can live in an RV on their property as long as sewer, water and other health and safety standards are met.

“I think we’d want to think pretty carefully about whether we want to be in the position of telling people, philosophically, that we want them to live in a house instead of an RV,” Commissioner Mark Ozias said in a Monday work session.

“The philosophical underpinning of that requirement would be worth additional exploration, in my opinion, because I’m not so sure I agree with it.”

The Clallam County Department of Community Development (DCD) has been working with the Planning Commission to address RVs through a draft ordinance.

“What we’re really trying to target is these problem ones where people live there, they bring multiple people, they have waste and junk and things like that,” Senior Planner Donella Clark told commissioners.

The staff proposal would affect RVs on private property and acknowledges the use of RVs as permanent residences in approved RV and mobile home parks.

“Code Enforcement deals with a large number of complaints related to RV use, which is not well defined in the Clallam County code,” DCD Director Mary Ellen Winborn said in an executive summary.

“This draft ordinance would require RVs be connected to proper sewage disposal, deal with solid waste and provides a table of allowed number of days of RV use.”

Clark said the Planning Commission was expected to discuss the RV proposal Wednesday and hold a public hearing on the matter in June.

The three commissioners will consider enacting the ordinance after their own public hearing in July or August.

“As you bring it back to the Planning Commission, you could reflect on the fact that we’ve heard clearly from the community about the need for us to have more housing and the homeless issue,” Commissioner Bill Peach told Clark.

The three-page proposal, which begins on page 132 of the commissioners’ work session packet for Monday, limits the number of days an RV is allowed on a parcel per year based on the size of the parcel.

The proposed limit ranges from 60 days per year for a parcel less than 1 acre and 300 days per year for a parcel larger than 20 acres.

“The idea behind that is when you’re in a higher-density area with smaller parcels, you are in an area that’s more neighborhood,” Clark said.

“It’s just a different situation, and we’re kind of basing it on what we get complaints about.”

Ozias suggested that buffers or visual barriers be considered in lieu of lot size.

“I can easily imagine a half-acre parcel with that is landscaped differently that might have a spot that would be completely isolated from other neighbors,” Ozias said.

Clark said the proposal sets standards for RVs that could be used in Hearing Examiner cases. A Hearing Examiner could establish fines that could becomes liens against the property owner, she said.

Commissioners suggested an enforcement mechanism for the RV owner rather than the property owner.

The DCD proposal allows for temporary living in RVs during home construction and caps the number of days a person can camp in a non-permitted tent or yurt at 30 days. Yurts are round tends covered with skins of felts as traditionally used by nomadic groups in Central Asia.

“If someone wants to live in a yurt, why would we tell them they can’t?” Ozias asked.

Clark said tents or yurts are considered single-family residences and require a county building permit. She clarified the ordinance would allow yurts that have a building permit.

“Per the building code, you cannot just pitch a tent and live in a tent,” Clark said.

“You have to get a building permit.”

Peach said a $3,000 building permit is “just not feasible” for a person living on a fixed income.

“Just telling somebody that wants to break the law that they should follow the law isn’t really a very effective approach,” Peach added.

Ozias contrasted the allowed use of RVs as permanent residences in RV parks against the prohibition being proposed for private property.

“I think there are a lot of folks who want to live with a smaller footprint than they used to,” Ozias said.

“I don’t want to be in the position of telling someone, if it’s equally safe, that we just don’t want you to do it like this because we don’t like that. That’s not the kind of county government I want to have.”

Clark said the Hearing Examiner is considering a proposal for a 54-lot RV park near the junction of U.S. Highway 101 and state Highway 112 west of Port Angeles. County staff had fielded interest about additional RV parks off Deer Park Road and in Blyn, she said.

“People are really interested in developing those,” Clark said.

“With more availability, we’re hoping that that can absorb some of these other ones that aren’t working out.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].

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