Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Text amendment opens door for RV parks in Leland

Recreational vehicles parked at Murray RV Park in Oak Island. (Port City Daily photo/file)

LELAND — Leland has approved an amendment to its ordinance to regulate RV parks, a use that may now soon come to the town.

Prior to Thursday’s council meeting, RV parks were not addressed anywhere in the town’s ordinance. When a property use is not listed in the code, the town regulates it based on the standards of the most similar activity, which in this case would be a hotel or motel.

“Without any text amendment, presumably, an RV park could be developed anywhere where a hotel or a motel is permitted without any additional supplemental regulation,” senior planner Matthew Kirkland explained.

Council unanimously supported a text amendment that would define RV parks and limit them to parcels at least 25 acres in two commercial zoning districts. At this time, only one parcel in the entire town would fit the requirements of an RV park, by right.

Evolve Acquisitions, LLC requested the text amendment. The company owns a 96-acre property off Chappell Loop Road, currently zoned residential, or R-6.

Usually, an applicant requesting a text amendment does not need to disclose their intentions; however, speaking on behalf of Evolve, attorney Amy Schaefer was upfront about the plans to open an RV park in town. Without success, she advocated for the use to be allowed in R-6 to avoid having to seek a rezoning to one of the two commercial districts.

In a presentation, Schaefer emphasized the park would create jobs and fuel the economy by attracting visitors who spend cash at restaurants, shops and attractions. An average guest spends $44 a day in the local economy, according to numbers from the RV Industrial Association, shared by Schaefer.

The attorney also made the argument that RV parks can benefit residents just as well as tourists, by providing an alternative to a hotel for their visiting families, especially those with children, and recreational activity. She compared the plans for the Leland RV park to Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park, a resort near North Myrtle Beach.

“It’s a campsite, and they have pools, and they have outdoor fire pits and cornhole, and if you don’t have an RV, you know, there are other ways to stay at these places,” Schaefer said. “My client wanted to bring that to Leland.”

In a memo to council, town staff made similar remarks in favor of an RV park, noting it was another mechanism to drive tourism and accommodate visitors.

Still, council did not comply with the applicant’s request entirely. ​​The text amendment only permits RV parks in districts C-2 — a zone that allows hotels, for-profit recreation facilities and dealerships of trucks, boats and modular homes — and C-3, typically reserved for warehouse and manufacturing uses.

Staff did not recommend an RV park as a good fit for R-6, which focuses on single-family construction. The applicant had also included the PUD zone in its plea, which requires the town’s approval of a master plan for any development.

“I absolutely agree that this should not be in a residential district because it’s transitory by nature,” councilmember Veronica Carter said. “It’s not putting a single-family home someplace where somebody pays taxes like me and everybody else who pays taxes. So it needs to be commercial. It is a business.”

Per the newly approved guidelines, RV parks can only exist on lots greater than 25 acres. There is only one parcel in the entire town that is zoned in the permitted districts and fits that description, meaning the applicant will need to submit a zoning map amendment if it wants to use the nearly 100 acres it already owns.

Schaefer estimated that process will take six to nine months. If successful, the applicant can start pulling permits to create the park.

The text amendment to incorporate RV parks into the ordinance has already been underway for several months. The town’s planning board first discussed the proposal in October but had hesitations. In November, the applicant presented a revised request in response to the feedback. All the planning board members, except one, were in favor of the modified proposal.

Any RV park would need to comply with the town’s noise and nuisance ordinances, as well as abide by a list of specific standards, including:

  • Parks must be at least 25 acres
  • Each RV site must be at least 1,250 square feet
  • The park cannot subdivide, sell, convey or sublease individual sites
  • Only one RV can park on a site and there has to be space for boats or ancillary vehicles
  • Sites can not be located in a flood hazard
  • Each site must be at least 20 feet apart
  • Open space is required at the same level of a single-family subdivision: 5% passive (think, playgrounds, multi-purpose fields, pools) and 5% active
  • RV sites cannot front a town- or state-owned street. To reach the sites, RV must drive into the park and use internal streets.
  • Only RV park occupants can use any vending machines, laundry facilities or other amenities

Originally, the proposal would also have permitted an occupant to stay at the RV park for up to 180 continuous days, only having to leave for 30 days before they could come back and restart the cycle.

Council took issue with this idea. Carter said the RV park inhabitants could skirt residency requirements and taxes, failing to chip in for the upkeep of roads they were traversing in their campers.

“It’s almost like you’re taking a 30-day vacation to go someplace else and then come back to Leland,” Carter said. “Well, if that’s the case, then come on and call Leland your home.”

Councilmember Bill McHugh remarked that anyone could drive a half-hour to KOA in Wilmington during the mandatory 30-day away period, then return.

“I do share that same concern that that’s going to result in a lot of 11-month, a-year stays,” McHugh said. “I think that we could really avoid that by breaking that time up.”

The council agreed to alter the proposed regulations to only allow occupants to stay 180 days total within a 12-month period, commencing on the first day of occupancy.

The applicant seemed to concur with the change, and Schaefer said the property owner was required to track lengths of stays and record vehicle numbers, anyway.

Send tips and comments to alexandria@localdailymedia.com

Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at alexandria@localdailymedia.com or on Twitter @alexsands_

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