A discussion about RVs drew several public comments during the Oct. 11 Montesano city council meeting.
At the forefront of the issue is a proposed change to municipal code which would change the duration RVs can stay at a particular RV park. The proposed change was brought forward by Councilman Dan Wood who said he would like to see the current 30-day limit increased.
“My concern on the policy we have now is we’re saying, ‘We want people to come to the city and spend money, and we want to get them off the freeway… but after 30 days, you need to leave,’” Wood said. “I don’t think that’s the message we want in Montesano.”
The rest of the city council members seemed agreeable to extending the duration.
“As a general principle, any rule, ordinance or law that we have on the books is always subject to review. Policies change, people change, maybe perceptions change, and we can always look at something and decide if that was a good idea or not a good idea,” Councilman Chris Hutchings said. “When this came up, I thought 30 days seemed low.”
Hutchings noted that in his research he found RV rules at cities throughout the state had varying duration with some stays limited more than Montesano and others allowing significantly more time.
Changing the municipal code, however, could have ramifications for an ongoing dispute between the city administration and the only RV facility in town.
“For six months, from March through August 2016, the city has acted in good faith and spent countless hours to work out a rational solution to help a local business comply with its permits and city codes,” Mayor Vini Samuel wrote in a letter to the council included in the council packet. “After all of those negotiations, a resolution was reached with Mr. Chung’s attorney. The proposed change of definition would undo all that work while giving the city and its citizens nothing in terms of compliance with the laws and permits everyone must follow.”
In her letter, Samuel notes the RV park’s application was for 35 spots, but the design was laid out for 40 spots. The conditional use permit approved by the council in July 2013 allows for 40 spots, but the RV Park currently has 56 RVs parked on site.
“There was no evidence in the files that permission was asked for, or given, to exceed the permit,” Samuel wrote.
During public comment at the Oct. 11 council meeting, Bob Bellamy said he had paperwork to verify that the RV park had permission to add spots. Samuel invited him to submit the documentation to the RV Park’s lawyer so it could be submitted to the city. As of Tuesday, Oct. 18, Montesano CFO Doug Streeter said he had not seen the paperwork to which Bellamy was referring.
The remaining public comment saw many members of the Montesano business community supporting Monte RV Park.
Also during public comment, Tony Chung, manager of Monte RV Park, said the ordinance itself is “false.”
“As it stands right now, the way the ordinance is worded for campgrounds, I can have tents. But we don’t do it. We don’t want tents there. But the ordinance says it’s OK, so the ordinance as it stands is false,” Chung said. “Campground? We’re not a campground — we’re an RV park.”
The clientele at the RV park is upstanding, and Chung and his family, who own multiple businesses in Montesano care about the city.
“It’s not just about the business. We know what we’re bringing into this town, and we want to make sure we’re bringing in good folks,” he said. “A lot of these folks are retired. They’re good people. It hurts me to turn away these good people.”
Brent Dennis, owner of Dennis Company, with multiple locations throughout the area including a store near Monte RV Park, credited the RV Park for its business success.
“It definitely brings a lot of business into the community,” Dennis said. “It’s been nothing but a positive influence in our business.”
Stormy Glick, the owner of Whitney’s Chevrolet in Montesano said the city council was not supporting the local business if it encumbers the RV park.
“When all of you ran for office, you all said you were going to promote business in Montesano, and I sit here and I hear you and it sounds like you’re trying to push a business out of Montesano,” Glick said. “I can attest for more than $100,000 in vehicles sold to people who have been in the park just since it opened … Can’t you understand we need the business? Don’t fight it.”
In all, eight people stood up to speak in support of the RV Park, some at length, and some more than once.
In a letter sent to The Vidette and the city, former mayor Ken Estes, who was mayor when the park was permitted and opened, said he remembers changes in the permits to allow more spaces and to remove a former car wash at the site. The 30-day limit set by the city’s municipal code, Estes wrote, was written to allow the park to “terminate lot rentals without ‘legal evictions’ and to prevent a person from trying to claim residence.”
He encouraged the council to make reasonable adjustments.
During c0uncil comment, all of the council members stated their support of extending the stay window for RVs.
“We’ve got a lot of information just within the last 48 hours,” Councilman Dave Skaramuca said. “As a group, we never wanted to shutdown Monte Square. We knew that.”
During her comments, Mayor Samuel said there were different obligations for the branches of city government. While the council is legislative and can make or change law, Samuel’s obligation is executive.
“The city administration’s job is to enforce the code,” Samuel said. “The council can change the code, that’s up to you all, but we (the city administration) enforce it. We enforce conditional use permits as they are given, and we don’t change it.”
The council did not agree on a specific time limit for revisions to the code, but the council does plan to hold a public hearing for any possible changes.