RV ordinance faces final approval Tuesday

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Anyone who is living in an RV in Gulf County, or who plans to, may want to pay attention to a public hearing his Tuesday morning.

This Tuesday, July 20 at 9 a.m., Gulf County commissioners are going to consider, what may likely be for the final time, measures to place within the land development code a series of sweeping rules pertaining to recreational vehicles within the county.

It will be the third hearing for the commercial RV parks ordinance and the second public hearing for the residential RV ordinance.

If adopted, the gist would be to enshrine in law some existing practices by establishing that within the all the unincorporated areas of the county, there could be no more than one RV per lot or parcel, coverage by the RV and accessories could not exceed 30 percent of impervious area, there would have to be two parking spaces per lot, parking on any right of way would be prohibited, and all standard building setbacks would have to be med.

In areas defined as Coastal Construction Corridors (Restrictive Coastal RV Zones), essentially along St. Joe Beach and on the Cape, such RVs would be prohibited, with those now sitting on these lots allowed to remain.

In the interest of public safety, all those countywide rules would have to be met by those owning property at the time the ordinance is adopted. While they would be allowed to continue to use their property for RVs, they would be required to practice mandatory evacuation within 48 hours of a county declaration of local state of emergency for either wind, storm or flood events.

Plus, this “grandfathered” status would be lost if the titled owner sells or transfers ownership of the property, or if there is a death or any one of several specified conditions.

The law allows for a number of exceptional circumstances, such as for unoccupied RVs being stored on a lot/parcel within the Coastal Construction Corridor, or ones only in use there during construction or repair of a primary dwelling or business, or as a dwelling during disaster recovery or family medical emergencies, where a visitor may be living while a family member is in the care of an area hospital.

The ordinance would call for all RVs within the Coastal Construction Corridor to be registered annually, for which they would receive a permit from the county for display.

County Attorney Jeremy Novak said that six years ago, in 2015, the county had made an initial attempt to register and tag RVs, to establish accurate numbers.

Ultimately, the county abandoned the idea, as the logistical and administrative challenge of conducting a permitting process were too great.

The second ordinance to be taken up will put in place regulations governing commercial RV parks within the unincorporated areas of the county. Any such parks would have to have at least 10 acres for density, and would be required to maintain at least a 200-foot buffer, on all its perimeters that abut residential structures.

Those RV parks that already exist would be exempted from these conditions, but would lose that grandfathered status if they cease operations for more than 30 days.

The intention behind the two ordinances is spelled out in their preambles, which is to move past piecemeal regulation and establish consistent guidance on what the proposed law deems are “the community’s public health concerns and comments in formulating an ordinance that achieves the goals of the County Comprehensive Plan while balancing the property rights of its citizens and visitors.

“The Commission seeks to reduce a significant threat and public safety concern through the smart growth management and use of RVs along of these coastal areas,” it reads. “The Coastal Construction Control Line Program is an essential element of Florida's coastal management program as it provides protection for Florida's beaches and dunes while assuring reasonable use of private property.”

The idea, the ordinance reads, is to “protect the coastal system from improperly sited and designed structures which can destabilize or destroy the beach and dune system. Once destabilized, the valuable natural resources are lost, as are its important values for recreation, upland property protection and environmental habitat.”

The legislation makes clear this coastal construction control line established an area “in which special siting and design criteria are applied for construction and related activities. These standards were more stringent than those already applied in the rest of the coastal building zone because of the greater forces expected to occur in these areas.

“Gulf County’s building codes concerning the areas most vulnerable to hurricanes as those being along the Gulf of Mexico coasts and the elevated basic wind speeds for various risk categories in coastal construction and design, clearly demonstrated by the damages incurred from Category 5 Hurricane Michael in Oct. 2018,” it says.

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