Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Local entrepreneur proposes NH county allow smaller lot sizes for ‘boutique’ RV parks

As New Hanover County considers an update to its RV park ordinance, staff points to it being a tourism draw, allowing visitors to stay close to water. (Port City Daily/File)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — In an effort to provide a more unique and intimate experience for campers and RV users, at the behest of one local man, the county will consider an update to its development ordinance.

READ MORE: Neighbors worried Sidbury Road RV park will create car accidents, bring in ‘migrants’

Michael Faulkner, in the works of developing Castle Hayne Farm Park LLC, recently submitted an application to New Hanover County’s planning board. He is requesting a change to the county’s unified development ordinance pertaining to campgrounds and RV parks. 

“I’m in the works of developing a small boutique RV/campground that’s only a few miles away from downtown,” Faulkner wrote to Port City Daily but declined to provide further details about the business concept.

The amendment change was continued from the May 4 meeting so county staff could do further research on neighboring jurisdictions and regulations.

Faulkner wants the ordinance to accommodate smaller sections of land for designated recreational vehicle areas. He’s requesting campgrounds or RV parks be allowed to contain a minimum of eight spaces, each with 1,200 square feet per lot. Currently, the county’s UDO requires a minimum development standard of 2,000 square feet per lot and 25 spaces.

The new ordinance would still call for a centralized location for bathrooms but allows the possibility of a retail counter, vending area and laundry services as well.

“Over the past few years, unaffordable housing has prevented an entire younger generation from entering into the housing market, preventing them from having any ownership or building assets while paying high monthly rent,” Faulkner wrote in an email to Port City Daily. “This negatively affects our community’s health, jobs, tourism and crime. Reimagining and reinventing our region’s Travel Trailer and Mobile Home Parks is the first step to bring true affordable housing and ownership to those that live, work and visit the Wilmington area.”

According to the application submitted, Faulkner is asking for the amendment to fit with “developing trends in technology, culture, employment and the market.”

He specifically points to traveling nurses. In New Hanover County, Novant recently hired more than 300 traveling nurses, as part of an action plan to rectify violations of its Centers for Medicare and Medicaid contract. However, the hospital also told Port City Daily last summer, it plans to reduce its reliance on those positions long-term.

Faulkner detailed the need for smaller spaces due to changing RV sizes. For example, Mercedes Sprinters have become more popular and range in length from 25 to 26 feet. Some traditional motor homes can reach more than 40 feet long, naturally requiring additional space.

Within the application, county staff’s analysis noted the parks offer additional ways for visitors to enjoy public access to water within the county’s coastal limits, thus increasing tourism. While RV parks and campgrounds are not specifically addressed in the county’s comprehensive plan, last updated in 2016, it recommends supporting businesses and promoting “place-based economic development.”

According to a tourism economic study for the state, New Hanover County brought in more than $930 million in tourism-related spending in 2021; $211 million alone was spent on lodging.

County staff noted in its analysis of the UDO change, the demand for temporary lodging increases as the supply decreases.

However, the county was also concerned about the impacts additional RV parks could have on residential areas; staff researched other jurisdictions’ ordinances when considering Faulkner’s request. Only one of the six had a minimum lot requirement, and all but one — Myrtle Beach — had minimum lot sizes below 2,000 square feet.

As a result, instead of updating its requirements on RV parks and campgrounds unilaterally, the county is recommending a new category — “campgrounds, RV parks, small” — be permitted within conditional rezonings in the R-20 (low- to moderate-density residential) and rural agricultural districts only.

Special use permits would still be mandatory for RV parks with 25 or more spaces within residential districts, such as the planned business along Sidbury Road. Applicant Douglas Grant wants to open a 66-spot campground on his nearly 20 acres of property to accommodate 2,000- to 3,000-square-feet camping spots; amenities include a pool, trails and shared common space.

At a community meeting last week, neighbors raised concerns about the RV park, citing “questionable” visitors, noise and light pollution, and traffic.

All proposed parks would have to go through the technical review committee process.

“Updating old ordinances will allow for smaller, more elegant travel trailers and tiny home communities to be built and I’m excited to lead this trend,” Faulkner wrote to  PCD.

The NHC planning board will consider the text amendment at its 6 p.m. Thursday meeting at the New Hanover County Historic Courthouse, 316 Princess St.

Tips or comments? Email amy@localdailymedia.com.

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