RV ordinance faces final approval Tuesday

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

“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.

Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper NonDoc.com during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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