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Popularity, growing size of RVs presenting city with problems

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Recreational vehicles have become increasingly popular and larger in recent years, say Roswell Planning and Zoning staff. Although some amended codes were adopted in December, city staff and members of the Roswell Planning and Zoning Commission are continuing to discuss how to deal with RVs parked in residential areas and whether a unique RV Park zoning district is needed. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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The city of Roswell is grappling with how to deal with recreational vehicles now that RVs have become increasingly popular and have grown “enormous” in some cases.

City of Roswell Planning Manager Bill Morris and other Planning and Zoning staff are in the midst of presenting many possible zoning ordinance changes to the Roswell Planning and Zoning Commission and the Roswell City Council, with the aim of updating and clarifying existing regulations and codes.

One of the topics the staff has discussed on a preliminary basis with commission members is what to do about RVs parked near homes in the city.

An amended ordinance about RVs, travel trailers and similar vehicles near residential properties was adopted in December 2017 in the effort to address some issues.

“It seems that everybody on the planet has one now,” said Morris. “When before … not everyone had them and they used to be a lot smaller.”

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He said the city now encounters two types of problem on a frequent basis, often after neighbors complain. One problem is that a lot of RVs are too big to be parked on residential properties while meeting current codes that govern how far vehicles need to be away from the front, rear and sides of the property.

A second problem is that quite a number of people are hooking up their RVs to water and electric connections for extended period of times, with people living in the RVs for weeks or months, which is not permitted unless the property owners meet certain criteria and have obtained a permit.

Also, current rules allow RVs to be hooked up in a street or public right-of-way near a residential home for a maximum of 72 hours. Generally, the 72–hour period is meant to allow people to pack, unpack or clean the RV before or after a trip.

“We found several properties where there are multiple trailers in the back,” Morris said. “We are constantly chasing these things. We are constantly going out and getting calls.”

He said the staff spends a considerable amount of time responding to complaints or working with RV owners in the attempt to find solutions. If staff are not vigilant in enforcing the code, he said, staff also receive complaints about that.

He also said a problem with trying to enforce the 72-hour rule for public right-of-way parking is that some people will move the RVs for a short period — a matter of hours or a day — and then move them back to the street. Any effort to process a code violation, he said, is then thwarted.

“We are looking for some ideas,” Morris said. “My idea is that some of these things have outgrown residential areas. Most lots, they just don’t fit.”

He said he tries to encourage people living on smaller lots to use commercial storage sites.

Some commissioners suggested that staff look at the codes of similar cities to see how they deal with RVs in residential areas. One also suggested that the city develop a “placement” permit for temporary parking in streets or public areas that clearly specifies the times, dates, location and conditions covered by the permit, with a new permit required each time the RV is to be parked in a public area.

In a separate discussion, Morris said the city is considering creating a unique and distinct Recreational Vehicle Park zoning district that would allow land developers and planners to place them in appropriate areas of the city. Right now, RV parks are zoned as community commercial districts (C-2), which means, according to Planning and Zoning staff, that theoretically someone could build an RV park next to a bank.

The discussions about possible zoning ordinance changes are expected to continue at the Aug. 21 meeting of the Roswell Planning and Zoning Commission.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.