RPTIA/N.J. Campground Assn. Join Forces
The Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) and the New Jersey Campground Owners Association (NJCOA) are joining forces on several fronts to ward off an administrative ruling by the state of New Jersey that could stifle the park model business in the Garden State.
On July 2, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) issued its proposed statute in the New Jersey Register for the construction of recreational park trailers being used in that state.
“The DCA proposal is very complex, in that it significantly revises the ANSI A119.5 Standard, by deleting sections, revising a few others, and adding copies of other standards that are also being revised by the DCA at this same time,” said William Garpow, RPTIA executive director, in a memo dated July 10 to his constituency.
RPTIA is asking its members to review the proposed changes and compile what these changes will mean to the retail cost of their average unit and return this data to the RPTIA. “This information is critical to the industry effort to stop the DCA before it destroys the destination campground business in New Jersey,” Garpow said.
RPTIA represents approximately 50 park model manufacturers nationwide.
NJCOA has been battling the DCA for over 10 years concerning park trailer regulations. Its position is that the units are recreational trailers and do not come under the authority of the DCA. DCA insists the park trailer is a mobile home and wants them to comply with UCC regulations for housing
Meanwhile, the NJCOA is asking its members to lobby state legislators on the matter. “We will have to get everyone involved in fighting these proposed rules. As written, they will have a very detrimental effect on our industry,” Jay and Marji Otto, NJCOA executive directors, stated in a July 12 letter to their members.
“If they (DCA) get what they want, the park model business in New Jersey is done,” Olin Wenrick, owner of Elkhart, Ind.-based Trophy Homes Inc. and RPTIA president, told Woodall’s Campground Management. “There is not one of us that I know of that can go through all the hieroglyphics of what they want.”
New Jersey represented the 8th largest market in the U.S. in 2006 for RPTIA members who shipped 510 units to the state or approximately 5% of their record-setting total of 10,141 for the year.
Tim Howard, president of Nappanee, Ind.-based Breckenridge, the industry’s No. 1 park model producer, counts New Jersey as one of his company’s top 10 markets and observed, “While it may be possible to produce products to the goofy smorgasbord of codes, I think it is cost prohibitive. It creates a near impossibility for a factory to comply with that and the ANSI standard at the same time.”
For example, the proposed New Jersey standard would force manufacturers to build park trailers with fewer windows, Howard noted. He said the trailers would be “hard to build and ugly. Ugly means nobody will want to buy it anyway. The state of New Jersey is now a foreign-speaking nation for the park trailer business.”
Among the changes, DCA defines a park trailer as any trailer not exceeding 400 square feet that is on site greater than four months and proposes to limit park model occupancy to six months or less within a given year. The electrical service connection would have to be examined annually by a licensed electrical contractor, DCA proposes.
Chris Donnelly, a DCA spokesman, said his agency’s action does not represent a change in the current law. Instead, he called it “a prospective interpretation of the Uniform Construction Code” that arose in response to a Sussex County Board of Appeals decision that did not reflect current law.
While DCA goes ahead with its mandatory 60-day public comment requirement for its proposed regulatory changes, which expires Aug. 31, other efforts are ongoing, including a suit by Tall Timbers Camping Resort against DCA, that may stop the DCA before it can make these new requirements a reality, Garpow noted in his memo.
“The New Jersey circuit court summary judgment is still pending, as promised by the judge last February. Should she decide that the agency did not have the authority to promulgate such requirements, then that finding could cause the DCA to set aside its current proposal. Efforts are also underway to get a determination by the New Jersey Attorney General’s office that the agency will not be able to begin enforcement of its new proposal until the circuit court’s summary judgment is determined,” Garpow said.
“The New Jersey legislature is also involved with identical resolutions, with bills being considered in both the Senate and House. The resolutions are a message to the DCA from the legislature that it does not consider the actions of the DCA to regulate RVs appropriate and recommends that the agency stop this activity. The bills make it clear that the DCA does not have the authority to regulate the RV industry at all, and directs that all such activity be immediately terminated,” Garpow said.
RPTIA’s Executive Committee has retained a lobbying firm at a cost of $35,000 to assist it with communications and action with the legislative and executive branches of the New Jersey state government for the next seven months. The association is putting up half the cost and is asking each RPTIA manufacturer for its fair share of the lobbying cost based upon the percentage of the New Jersey market that the manufacturer enjoyed in 2006. Manufacturer “fair share” invoices were sent out the week of July 20.