Differing ideas over RV parks

A proposed recreational vehicle park in Marietta’s south end received a lot of attention during a recent meeting of the Marietta Planning Commission, resurrecting an issue the city faced with a similar proposal five years ago.

RV parks are not regulated by Marietta’s city code, and an attempt to enact legislation governing RV parks in the city was defeated by city council in 2009.

“I just want to be able to make use of my property, and at this time an RV park would be a logical choice,” said Keith Thomas of Beverly who owns the three-parcel lot at 205 South Fifth St.

He’s requesting a special exception to the city’s regulation governing property use in a C-3 commercial-zoned district in which Thomas’ property is located.

“I want to park four high-end RVs on the property-one of them would be my own,” Thomas said, adding that he meets all of the city’s requirements for the use, including setback requirements and the availability of electricity and water and sewer service connections.

He’s received a lot of interest from RV owners who would like to locate their vehicles on the lot, including workers from the oil and gas industry.

During last week’s planning commission meeting a letter supporting Thomas was submitted from Marietta Councilman Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward.

“This has been an issue for years,” McCauley said Tuesday. “Keith wants to put in a park for four RVs to get some return on his property investment there.”

He said Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations limit the use of properties like that owned by Thomas because they’re located within the 100-year flood plain, which impacts economic development.

“But this is one thing he can do with that property,” McCauley said. “People should have the right to use their properties for what they want.”

In his letter to the planning commission, McCauley noted the city already has four RV parking areas located at the Washington County Fairgrounds, on West Montgomery Street, in the 1000 block of Front Street and on South Seventh Street.

“The existing RV parks have not affected the welfare of their neighbors,” he wrote.

But some property owners from a neighboring condominium complex expressed opposition to Thomas’ planned RV facility.

“They just didn’t want an RV park in their backyard because they felt it would devalue their properties,” said Mayor Joe Matthews, who serves on the planning commission.

Diane Vezza, who lives in a condominium at 313 Ohio St., told the commission that an appraiser had said she lived in a special area along the river.

“The appraiser said you live in such a special area and it is so important and attractive, and you are on the river, so you should pay higher taxes. You live in a prestigious place,” she said. “Now, if I live in that prestigious place and I have paid taxes for over 20 years? I do not want any type of trailer, I don’t care whether they have wheels or they are solid or whatever it is near me.”

Montgomery Street resident Smitty Vandale spoke in defense of Thomas’ proposal during the planning commission session.

“The thing that gets me about this is that you are not letting this man have his RV park,” he said. “What is going to be next? Are you going to run my father out, my aunt, my cousins because they have a weight bench in their yard?”

Jim Barengo, who owns property at 416 Hart St., adjacent to the RV park area proposed by Thomas, also opposed the facility, saying the property is not zoned for such use. He said that area is zoned C-3 for commercial use generally as retail, mercantile and residential.

“Trailer parks are in no way the same general character,” Barengo told the commissioners. “The city does have a zone which is designed specifically for trailer parks. I believe that is the intent of C-5.”

Barengo also said he had concerns that Thomas’ RV park could block ingress and egress to the Barengo property that would be critical in the event of a flood.

Local businessman Clyde Huddleston battled with the former city administration to turn a mobile home park he owned along South Seventh Street into an RV facility,

“After the 2004 flood I had to take the mobile home trailers out of there,” Huddleston said. “Then it took several years before I could put in an eight-lot RV park.”

The basic issue at that time was whether RV parks should be permitted in some areas of the city zoned for commercial use. City council proposed legislation governing the location of RV parks in town, but the measure was defeated.

RV parks are not currently directly addressed by city code.

Huddleston said he eventually took his case to the Ohio Attorney General’s office, which advised the city that his proposed RV park should not be denied.

Since then Huddleston has provided space for several RVs year-round, most owned by oil and gas industry workers.

“I’ve had no trouble at all from those people,” he said. “And I believe property owners ought to be able to use their ground in whatever way they want.”

Matthews said the RV issue was tabled last week and discussion will continue during the planning commission’s next session from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Wednesday in the Washington County Commissioners meeting room at the county courthouse, 205 Putnam St.