County to consider hearing on approving RVs on lots

Planners want separate track for affordable housing

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners will consider next month a proposal to regulate recreational vehicles in unincorporated areas.

The draft ordinance, if approved Sept. 28, would allow the placement of one RV or park model on a legal lot with proper screening.

Park models, a type of RV designed for more long-term residency, would require proper installation, proof of legal black and graywater disposal, solid waste disposal and comply with county zoning, including protections for shorelines and critical areas.

The ordinance would allow people to live in an approved RV or park model in lieu of an accessory dwelling unit.

“Essentially, what we’re trying to do is provide some standards for acceptable use of RVs, park models and camping on properties,” Senior Planner Donella Clark told commissioners Monday.

“Currently, our Clallam County code doesn’t even have a definition of park models, and doesn’t really specify use of RVs, unless it’s in a quote unquote ‘RV park.’”

The Clallam County Planning Commission voted 6-1 to forward the draft ordinance for commissioners’ review after a public hearing July 7.

The three commissioners are expected to schedule a Sept. 28 public hearing on the RV ordinance when they gather at 10 a.m. today.

Given the need for more affordable housing in Clallam County, Commissioner Bill Peach asked Clark if the Department of Community Development had consulted with housing advocates on the ordinance.

Clark said there had been no consultation with housing officials.

“Recreational vehicles are vehicles, and we do not want to actually say, as members of Community Development, that we think that RVs are an acceptable solution to homelessness,” Clark said.

“We don’t want to give people substandard housing. We want to have a conversation about homelessness that actually helps give people housing.

“So that’s going to be a conversation that we have at a different time, because philosophically, we don’t believe RVs are housing,” Clark added. “They are a vehicle.”

Mark Ellen Winborn, the county’s elected Community Development director, did not attend the Monday work session due to a medical appointment.

In a later interview, Winborn said she agreed with Clark’s statements.

“She was spot on,” Winborn said.

“Recreational vehicles are vehicles. That’s just what it is.”

“People pay a lot of money to come in here to get their permit to build a single-family residence to make sure that they’re up to code to live permanently in a building,” Winborn added.

“So we can’t say a vehicle is safe to live in as we do a single-family residence.”

Peach challenged the notion that RVs cannot provide alternate housing, saying many of his West End constituents live in RVs.

“If you’re living on $12,000 a year, it is better than living under the bridge,” Peach said during the work session.

“Or a car,” Commissioner Randy Johnson said.

Peach recalled being asked for $10 because a person needed a tarp and tape for their car where they lived with their children.

“It is not optimal living in an RV,” Peach said, “but I do know of some homeless camps, and that alternative is terribly worse. There is no law enforcement in those tents.

“I do see the RV as an alternative that we ought to be considering right now until such time as we do have better resources for homelessness,” Peach added.

Clark said the draft ordinance would be a “step in the right direction” because it sets no time limit for RVs on private property. She agreed that Clallam County and its cities should address affordable housing on a separate track.

Commissioner Mark Ozias, board chairman, said a recent homelessness needs and gaps assessment identified a need for safe parking areas for RVs.

“I think that, parallel to this RV ordinance, it would be well worth some additional conversation with our city partners and perhaps others to consider whether we want to pursue that strategy … so that we might be giving ourselves a better chance of acknowledging reality, providing a more safe, secure and sanitary environment, and doing it in a more responsible way,” Ozias said.

Ozias said the staff proposal “does a good job” of accommodating property owners property who choose to live in RVs.

“I don’t believe that it’s our job to tell people that they should be living in this kind of a thing vs. that kind of a thing,” Ozias said.

“I like that this ordinance provides people with the flexibility to live in an RV on a more permanent basis if that is their desire.

“It establishes some criteria for trying to do that safely and responsibly, which is what we should be shooting for, in my opinion,” Ozias added.

“But the informal camps of homeless individuals who are living in some semblance of a vehicle like this, I think that requires a different train of thought and significant strategy.”

________

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

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