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RVIA May Have Opened A Pandora’s Box When It Gave the OK to Build Larger Fifth-Wheel Trailers

May 27, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

Get ready for likely issues to arise in various localities and states in response to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA recent change to allow fifth-wheel trailers to be up to 430 square feet in the set up mode. The RVIA board acted on March 27 and issued a Standard News Bulletin on April 3. 

“Effective immediately,” the RVIA board action stated, “in order for a fifth-wheel trailer to be recognized as a recreation vehicle for RVIA membership purposes, it may not exceed 430 square feet in the setup mode.” 

The bulletin goes on to caution that the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) may consider fifth-wheels larger than 400 square feet to be manufactured housing. The bulletin also notes that there may be as many as 16 states that by statute may limit the maximum size of fifth-wheel trailers to 400 square feet. 

Finally and most importantly for RV park and campground owners, the bulletin notes that “state and local code enforcement officials may take the position that recreation vehicles over 400 square feet in the setup mode are manufactured homes as defined by HUD. (RVIA) Members are encouraged to work with the states to determine if fifth wheels over 400 square feet will be considered recreation vehicles and permitted.” 

The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) had opposed the change in the allowable size of fifth- wheels for just the reasons cited in the RVIA bulletin – the likelihood of confusion and new regulations on the state and local levels. This move by RV manufacturers could create considerable havoc for many existing RV parks and campgrounds and especially for those needing various approvals for expansion or for the construction of new parks. 

ARVC Public Affairs Committee 
Sets Priorities, Reviews Policies
 

The ARVC Public Affairs Committee – the park industry’s federal legislative and regulatory action group – met April 3 to set federal government related priorities, review and update ARVC national policies on major legislative and regulatory issues impacting the park industry, and to initiate the long-awaited updating of the industry’s Model Code and Guide To Sensible Regulation. 

The committee is chaired by Michigan park owner Wayne Purchase and includes Terry Munoz of Texas, Marcia Galvin of Massachusetts, Karl Littman of Virginia, ARVC Executive Committee member Patrick O’Neill of Florida. David Gorin and Aubrey King of King & Gorin, a Washington, DC-based public affairs consulting group and ARVC’s public affairs consultants, serve as advisers to the committee. 

This committee oversees what is frequently considered by park owners to be among the most important services ARVC provides for the park industry. Although not always apparent to members, the ARVC public affairs program is designed to assure that the interests of the association’s members and the overall industry are both protected and recognized on the federal level by all branches of government. 

Public Affairs Committee 
Recommends Priority Issues
 

The Public Affairs Committee reviewed a number of federal issues of importance to the park industry and narrowed down the priority interests of ARVC. The priority issues are recommended to the board for ratification and then comprise the ARVC legislative and regulatory agenda for the year. 

The priority issues for ARVC action on the federal level for 2009-2010 include: 

  • Assuring that the reauthorization of the federal highway programs provides funding for key aspects of highway travel and transportation of importance to RVers – sufficient infrastructure funding to assure highway safety; continuation of the Scenic Byways program; funding for states to support welcome centers; funding for trail development and maintenance; funding for public land roads. 
  • Unfair Competition – continuing ARVC’s longstanding efforts to reduce governmental campground competition with private sector businesses. 
  • Recreation Fee Program – assure continuation of the fee program to provide necessary funding for improvement of visitor experiences on public lands. 
  • National Park Centennial Initiative – assure funding for improvement of national parks as it reaches the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. 
  • Taxes – work actively with other small business-oriented groups to secure favorable tax treatment for small business; continue to work towards changes in the estate tax structure to protect assets of small businesses from excessive taxation upon death. 
  • SBA Loans – work to assure that RV parks and campgrounds are eligible for SBA guarantees and funds on an equal basis with other businesses. 
  • Participate with other small business groups in the debate on providing improved health insurance for all Americans. 
  •  Forest Service Fire Fighting Budget – work for adequate funding that assures protection of businesses and personal residences in high fire areas. 
  •  International Tourism Marketing and Travel Facilitation – support travel industry efforts to secure funding to promote international tourism to the United States 
  •  Stimulus Legislation – the committee recommended that the ARVC Board establish a policy in opposition to further stimulus legislation to prop up private business. 
  •  Protect the park industry’s interests in any consideration of changes to RVs and park models that would impact on RV parks and campgrounds. 

ARVC Takes Position 
Against Corporate Bailouts
 

The committee reviewed all existing ARVC policies and considered the need for updating or modifying ARVC policies on important issues. 

The committee voted unanimously to recommend to the board that “ARVC consider reducing and eventual elimination of the federal deficit to be of paramount importance to the long term economic health of the U.S. ARVC opposes any further economic stimulus and corporate bailout programs.” 

The committee reviewed more than 35 ARVC national policies, several of which were deemed no longer appropriate or necessary and were archived for future reference as necessary. And several policies were modified to assure that they reflect current circumstances and meet current association needs. The complete compendium of ARVC policies is available from ARVC headquarters. 

Model Code Review 
And Update Underway
 

In a very significant move, the committee began the process of updating and modernizing the industry’s model code. This important document is used by parks across the country to help local jurisdictions better understand the park industry and individual park needs when those local jurisdictions are developing or modifying their ordinances and zoning regulations governing campground development, expansion, and, in some cases, operations. 

The code review will hopefully address a number of issues that have become important to the park industry since the code was initially written in the mid-1990s. Among the areas that the review will consider are: 

  •  Technology – are there elements of technology that should be addressed in the code? 
  •  Rental units – the model is essentially silent on this subject; how, if at all, should this subject be addressed? 
  •  Recreational facilities and equipment that may constitute new accessory facilities and uses within a campground. 
  •  Industry definitions; are changes needed for how various terms are defined? 
  •  Operational rules, regulations and policies. 
  •  Health and safety considerations. 
  •  Inclusion of provisions for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Washington Updates 
on a Few Key Issues
 

Estate Tax Update: It appears as this column is being written, that the long battle to repeal the estate tax may be coming to a conclusion, not as we hoped but as the Obama Administration interprets that onerous and unfair death tax. The anticipated 2010 estate tax “holiday” may be on its way out. The Administration’s budget calls for repealing the previous law that would eliminate the estate tax for that one year and reinstate the tax at its current level (45% with a $3 million exemption – $7 mil for a married couple). While the Administration may not get its proposal adopted completely, several senators have introduced an alternative – a 35% tax and a lower exemption rate. Regardless of the specific outcome on the President’s budget, it looks like estate tax repeal may need to be put on the way back burner as long as the current political party is in control of both the White House and the Congress. 

CAFÉ Standards Issued: The March 30 Federal Register included a final rule (all 857 pages worth) for Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for Model Year (MY) 2011. The standards will be 30.2 miles per gallon (mpg) for passenger vehicles and 24.1 mpg for light trucks, up from 27.5 and 23.3, respectively. 

Two-wheel drive sport-utility vehicles (2WD SUVs) have been reclassified. Over one million such two-wheel drive vehicles have been moved from the truck fleet to the car fleet. The National Highway Transportation Safety Agency estimates that, in response to the final standards for MY 2011 light trucks, manufacturers will incur costs of approximately $865 million for additional fuel-saving technologies, compared to the costs they would incur if the standards remained at MY 2010 levels. The agency estimates that the resulting vehicle price increases to buyers of MY 2011 light trucks will be paid back in additional fuel savings in an average of 7.7 years (92 months), based on fuel price assumptions. 

RV & Park Industry Continue Efforts on Credit and SBA Loans:RVIA continues to work to free up credit for RV dealers and consumers and help the industry recover from the current severe economic crisis. A primary effort is to expand the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 7(a) lending program to benefit the RV industry. 

The SBA’s 7(a) loans are partially guaranteed loans that are issued by a bank to a small business to support its operations. SBA recently raised guarantees for 7(a) loans from 75% to 90% and eliminated or cut borrower fees on these loans. Small businesses can currently secure up to $2 million under the 7(a) program for working capital, machinery and equipment, and in some cases debt financing. 

The 7(a) loans are currently not available for RV dealer floorplan loans to purchase new inventory. Financing for floorplanning would provide much-needed working capital for RV dealers. 

RVIA is also seeking to change the SBA standard for what it considers a “small” business. Currently the SBA considers small businesses to be companies with less than $7 million in gross earnings averaged over three years. A change in that definition is essential for RV dealers to qualify as small businesses and be eligible for the 7(a) loan program. RVIA has suggested that the SBA change the definition of a small business to be one that employs 500 or fewer employees or one with sales up to $25 million (the criteria for new car dealers).

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