Woodland Park Planning Commission Delays Action on Rescinding RV Camping Limits

Future Workshop Mulled Between City Leaders, Planners and RV Park Owners

Bob Volpe

The hot topic of whether or not to end the 180-day limit on campers, residing in recreational vehicle (RV) and  designated parks, resulted in a decision to take more time to study the issue.

This was the verdict last week of the Woodland Park Planning Commission, in a hearing that attracted much attention.  The city council had previously thrown the issue into the laps of the commission, after considerable discussion during a  meeting in April that wasn’t lacking in mixed opinions.

The subject of RV camping, and people using these units as more permanent dwellings, has generated much discussion around the country, and even became the focus of the award-winning movie “Nomadland,” inspired by the nonfiction book by Jessica Bruder. The idea of “wheel estate” living has become a growing lifestyle among many seniors and retirement groups. Some communities open their doors to RV permanent dwellers, while other towns frown on this type of living.

The issue of camping limits has been a hot subject throughout Teller County in the last few years.

Before delving into the proceedings, the purpose of Thursday’s meeting was to send a recommendation to city council on whether or not to remove language from the ordinance that limits RV park camping to 180-days. It was not a meeting to take any definitive action on the issue. Those actions must be made by the city council.

The meeting began with a brief recap by Planning Director Sally Riley on how the issue began and where it is now. Riley explained that language in the ordinance that deals with RV park occupation, which has been on the books for decades, never included a definite time that RVers could remain in RV parks. The original ordinance used language like, “temporary,” “short term.” “intermittent,” and “transient.” When reviewing the ordinance, Riley determined that the language was too vague and ambiguous.

In attendance were two of the RV park owners who argued that the 180-day limit would affect their income if it wasn’t removed. Planning Commission Chairman Jon DeVaux and Commissioner Ellen Carrick agreed that the matter is a property rights’ issue and the limit could cause the owners to suffer a loss should they decide to sell their property.

Commissioners Vicky Good, Lee Brown, and Ken Hartsfield saw it differently. They argued that, while the current owners do have strict rules regarding safety issues, future owners may not have sufficient standards for upkeep and safety.

They commission also debated the idea that the ordinance should indeed have a time limit in the language. Hartsfield said, “One-hundred and eighty days is a good definition of “temporary.’”

The debate then turned to the prospect of allowing current long-term residents of the parks to be grandfathered in and allowed to stay. This raised the question of how such an exception could be included in the ordinance. Riley suggested that “special language” could be inserted into the ordinance to address that problem.

During the debate, it appeared that Hartsfield, Brown, and Larsen were leaning toward keeping the limit, while  DeVaux and Carrick were in favor of deleting it.

As the debate continued on, DeVaux noted the current moratorium on deciding the issue doesn’t expire until March 2022. Due to the timing of the moratorium, Commissioner Larry Larsen proposed a motion to keep the limit language in the ordinance at this time,  until a work session could be held between city council, the RV park owners, and the planning commission. This motion passed unanimously.

A date has yet to be determined on when such a work session will be scheduled.