In an effort to accommodate about 50 recreation vehicles that are not in compliance, city councilors are moving forward with less strict regulations.
Last year, councilors approved an ordinance that limited RV's to only one per home or piece of land and it specified exactly where the RV could be stored in relation to the structure, yard line and alley.
On Tuesday, councilors unanimously approved changing the ordinance and making the regulations less rigid because staff has since informed the City Manager about difficulties enforcing the stricter rules.
City Manager Jim O'Reilly said the new ordinance "remedies that" and makes it possible for people to keep an RV.
"The biggest change is the elimination of the setbacks and the allowance of at least one RV in the front yard," Fred Metcalf said.
"I'm glad that we worked it through and I think it's a good correction and I think it's livable," Jennifer Salmon said.
Mayor Mike Yakes said he supported the changes, wanted to vote on it and "be done with it."
"I don't believe you'll have an ordinance that will satisfy all of the properties," he said.
Yakes pointed out that the city was built out in the 1960's and many of the properties and "non conforming lots."
"Without even an effort you can fall into a non compliance," Yakes added.
"I think we need to adopt this and live with it, because you are trying to change something that won't fix," Mayor Yakes said.
The regulations approved in July only allowed one RV per piece of property and did not allow that RV to be parked in the front of the property.
Here are the current regulations that could be loosened if council approves changes during second reading.
"No recreational vehicle shall be placed kept or maintained except in the rear or side yard of any parcel of land within the city, nor beyond the front of any structure upon said property, nor within six (6) feet of the side yard line of an interior lot, nor within fifteen (15) feet of the side yard line or a corner lot, which side yard line abuts a street or alley, nor within fifteen (15) feet of the rear property line, nor within five (5) feet of any structure located upon said property."
The changes, which were unanimously approved during first reading include:
- allowing residents to have more than one RV on their property.
- allowing utility hookup for electric services
If passed during second reading, residents would be able to park one RV in the front yard and store one or more RV's in the side or rear yard as long as they are shielded by a 6-foot opaque fence or solid vegetative screen.
The changes also allow Class B RV's, such as vans up to 23 feet in length, that are used for day-to-day transportation, to be exempt from the storage regulations.
In the new ordinance, visiting RV's have been differentiated from RVs loading and unloading. The 120 hour, twice per year time frame has been left. The original ordinance provision that allowed for loading and unloading of RVs for trips has been reinserted and modified to allow such this use for periods less than 72 hours at any time.
Mixed Comments from Residents:
Gulfport resident Emmett Walsh expressed great concern over the more lenient regulations.
"It looks like we are changing this ordinance to accommodate the violators.. . . Many citizens have spent a lot of time, a lot of money and effort to improve the looks of this city, do we really want RV's parked on the front lawns of our neighborhood?"
Walsh feels the new changes are going backwards. "The existing ordinance is better left alone."
Walsh also stated that since there's no limit to RV's in the new ordinance, a resident can legally fit four RV's on a lot. He added that Gulfport could host RV parking for the rest of the county.
"This ordinance will blight the look of our city," he said.
Gulfport resident Patricia Milward stepped forward and said she thinks the changes are fine.
"I don't think anybody's going to have a multitude of RV's," she said.
Gulfport resident Debra Sabourin, an RV owner, stated that her "toy" is expensive and not a blight in neighborhoods.
"I paid a little over 65,000 for that thing and trust me, it's not blight in my neighborhood," she said.
Sabourin said one of the reason's she moved here was to have her "toys" and be within the city's regulations.
She's happy with the changes and thanked leaders for being more accommodating for RV owners.
"I am very grateful and I live in a live and let live city," she said.
Gulfport resident Al Davis said he was watching the meeting from home when he decided to come out and speak up.
"Struck me that once again we have a recommendation to pass bad law. I think you've gotten yourself in a position here, where you've created more of a problem," he said.
"I don't care what you're decision is," Davis added at the end of public comment.