Maine Newspaper: Anti-RV Parking Bill 'Wrong'
Editor's Note: This editorial was published today (May 12) in the Kennebec (Maine) Journal in response to proposed legislation in the Maine Legislature that would ban overnight RV parking in public parking lots.
Maine's campground owners who cater to recreational vehicles, or RVs, have to comply with a lot of regulations. They must abide by state rules on everything from how ice should be handled to how sewage should be disposed, how many privies must be supplied and how long campground registries must be retained. All these rules apply to enterprises that are actively run for, at most, six months a year. We can't imagine that people get into the RV campground business to get rich. In the last few years, campground owners say, the tough business they're in has gotten tougher. And they point the finger at parking lots as the problem — specifically, parking lots at Wal-Marts across the state as well as at L.L. Bean in Freeport, Dysart's Truck Stop in Hermon, the Kittery Trading Post and Yarmouth's Delorme Publishing. The owners of those parking lots allow RVs to spend the night for free and campground owners say that's hurting their business. So Democratic Rep. Anne Perry of Calais has submitted a bill to prohibit RVs from parking overnight in commercial lots. The bill, supported by owners of the state's 275 campgrounds, was just amended and passed by a legislative committee and is on its way to full House consideration. While we sympathize with campground owners, we don't favor this bill. As one enthusiast wrote on an RV Web site called "Escapees," "It isn't about the money, really. It's about any state legislature acting to legislate customers into a specific class of businesses." We don't believe it's the job of the Legislature to help out one industry by restricting competing businesses. It's a version of protectionism — but at a local level — and it's wrong. And while we believe the RV campground owners are hurting, we have yet to see anything other than anecdotal evidence about the impact of the shift to parking lot usage by RVs. Finally, campground owners say that RVs avoid the cost of using their facilities, where they offer waste disposal among other services, by dumping their sewage down the storm drains at parking lots. That's illegal and laws that restrict such practices already are on the books. Despite the desire to help some hurting Maine businesses, we urge lawmakers to reject this bill. It's the wrong kind of help.