County officials consider restructuring enforcement of RV ordinance

At a special meeting held Dec. 14, Gulf County officials presented the Board of County Commissioners with a plan to reorganize how penalties are implemented under the county’s RV ordinance, which was narrowly passed by the board in 2021.

The move comes after a series of violations, in which RVs are shuffled around to avoid penalties, said County Administrator Michael Hammond.

“We’re having folks bring multiple RVs on one lot, but then by the time they come to issue the citation and they go before the special magistrate, they’re gone,” said Hammond. “And (the RVs) eventually come back.”

Under Hammond’s proposal, enforcement agents, likely law enforcement, would be able to issue citations for violations of the ordinance on the spot, instead of waiting for code enforcement officers to be able to come to the site.

“I will get with the Sheriff’s Office and Lieutenant Wood about writing individual citations to the violators on site, and then we’ll follow-up with the property owners through the civil side and the code enforcement side,” he said. 

Gulf County commissioners voted 3-2 last year to approve the sweeping ordinance on recreational vehicles in residential neighborhoods that backers said would address the growth in the number of these units in the years following Hurricane Michael in 2018.

Limiting the number of RVs per lot was one of the ordinance’s main provisions, along with provisions specifying 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.

The way the ordinance was implemented, all those countywide rules had to be met by those owning property at the time the ordinance was adopted. 

Currently, violations of the ordinance are assessed by the county’s code enforcement officials through its established special magistrate hearing procedure. Hammond stressed that this would still be the case when it came to the property owners where violations occur.

““The attorney said the way that (the ordinance) is written, (a violation) could be written as a criminal citation for that particular date, with a notice to appear in court, a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail for the first offense,” Hammond continued. “And we could also do the civil side for the property owner, with the code enforcement and to put it on a tax bill.”

Hammond said he would work to come up with a concrete proposal for the commissioners to vote on in upcoming meetings.

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 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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