By MEL ROTHENBURGER
Director, Electoral Area P (Rivers and the Peaks)
THE TNRD BOARD’S DECISION on RVs Thursday (Dec. 12, 2019) is not exactly being embraced by the Rural Rights Association of B.C., the group formed to lobby for the use of RVs as permanent dwellings.
That’s often the way it is with compromises. Here’s the resolution approved by the board:
- Bylaw amendments to enable open ended stays on approved, appropriately zoned Manufactured Home Park (MHP), Recreational Vehicle Park (RVP), and private campground lands in the TNRD.
- Enable longer term RV dwelling use, case by case, via a Temporary Use Permit; and
- Board Policy 9.1.3 amendments to draw down enforcement and set policy parameters for guests or vacationers staying in an RV on a temporary basis (e.g. for a month or less).
Points 1 and 3 address concerns about the need to open longer stays at private RV and mobile home parks, and the contentious rule against visitors parking RVs on the rellies’ driveway for extended periods.
It’s Point 2, though, that gets at the biggest issue, which is the current ban on the use of RVs as dwellings. Using TUPs to legalize RVs as dwellings on a case-by-case basis is certainly imperfect but, of the options we have, it appears to be the best bet for now.
I would have preferred to be able to rewrite our bylaws to provide a means for legalization under those bylaws but it was explained to us yesterday that this isn’t possible because we lack the authority.
We could, in theory, wash our hands of the whole thing and simply look the other way but, in my view, that wouldn’t be responsible. Health and safety issues need to be addressed and we do that through regulation.
It was unfortunate the meeting fell on a day of bad weather that prevented several people from the Rural Rights group from attending, because I had specifically asked that time be set aside on the agenda for further public input.
It would have been helpful to hear reaction to the proposed changes in the context of the discussion but I know there will be further input between now and when the fleshed-out policy changes come back to the board in a couple of months.
Tom Coles has posted on the RRABC Facebook page that “the so-called bylaws revisions recommendations include requirements that are in fact, more stringent and unrealistic than currently exist.”
Well, here’s the difference. The use of RVs as dwellings is currently banned (unless you’ve taken out a building permit and are building a house while temporarily living in an RV). Under the planned changes, the use of RVs as dwellings is no longer banned.
The TUP approach is used by several regional districts. It allows the regional district and the RV owner to come to agreement on how to accommodate the issues arising from the fact an RV is a vehicle, not a building.
The Cariboo Regional District, for example, has set certain basic requirements for issuing a TUP for an RV. Associated structures (such as add-ons or entranceways) must be temporary and built according to the building bylaw. The RD takes into consideration whether the RV dwelling is in keeping with the character of the neighbourhood.
Other matters such as wood heating, water and sewer, and maintenance of the property can be worked out on a case-by-case basis.
I can foresee some obvious concerns with the TUP approach, one of which is the $1,500 application fee. On the other side of the coin, there are concerns about the fact RVs can’t be taxed — only land on which they sit can be taxed — because they’re movable.
That creates an inequity in which taxpayers with mobile homes or stick-built homes pay taxes on the assessed value of both land and improvements but RV dwellers pay only on the land.
Director Mike O’Reilly of Kamloops proposed that an additional fee be charged on top of the TUP application fee to address this because, as he put it, “we have a regional district to run” and the means to do that is through taxation.
It remains to be seen whether that is a viable or desirable move, or even if it would be legal.
Another concern will undoubtedly be the length of time it takes to process a TUP application.
So, in my view, the next challenge is to make recreational vehicle TUPs as economical and streamlined as possible.
Since TUPs last for three years with a possible three-year extension, six years from now the issue will be back. Maybe by then there will be a better answer, such as coming up with a definition and standards under which an RV can become a building instead of a vehicle.
This issue is a very difficult one on which to have a productive discussion, and I’ll give you an example from Friday morning (Dec. 13, 2019).
Thursday, during our meetings, I received a text from Courtenay at CBC Daybreak asking if I could go on the air today to talk about the RV discussion. I replied yes and said I’d get back to her later on where I would be.
That evening, I texted her again with my home phone number where I could be reached this morning. Unknown to me, Courtenay wasn’t working Friday and Shelley Joyce, who hosts the program, didn’t get the message. Instead of my home phone, she started calling my cellphone, which sat in a different room vibrating while I waited by the landline.
Shelley then mentioned on air that she was trying to reach me. By the time I figured out she might be calling my cell, and we got connected, we lost a couple of minutes.
This resulted in comments on the RRABC Facebook page by a couple of members that I was “choosing not to answer (my) phone” and “Doesn’t surprise me in the least Mel was late.” There was even a suggestion the delay was planned to cut into Tom Coles’ time on air (Tom was interviewed after me).
Tough crowd but an example of the kind of suspicions that have unfortunately grown up about the TNRD and, possibly, government in general. Nevertheless, I will continue to respectfully engage in hopes of reaching common ground. I understand their frustration; when people get good, transparent information and feel they’re being listened to, solutions come more easily.
As I said at yesterday’s meeting, the use of RVs as dwellings is a housing option that’s here to stay and we have accommodate it through the best means we have available to us.
Mel Rothenburger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.