Some Hilton Head RVs Must Be Road-Ready

August 24, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

The owners of more than 30 RVs near the bridges to Hilton Head Island, S.C., soon will receive warning citations as the county begins enforcing part of its flood-plain law requiring the vehicles be road-ready and have updated vehicle registrations.

Responding to a complaint, county codes enforcement officer Audrey Antonacci found 33 RVs at the Hilton Head Harbor RV Resort without valid registrations, according to the Hilton head Island Packet.

Notices will be sent to the owners, giving them 90 days to update their registrations with the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles or face up to $1,093 in fines.

The 200-lot resort of mostly RV trailers sits on Jenkins Island near the northern tip of Hilton Head, inside the county’s jurisdiction.

Even with this latest enforcement effort, some lot owners worry the county and the resort homeowner’s association aren’t doing enough to ensure the vehicles will be ready to hit the road in a hurricane evacuation.

Because the resort is at the foot of the Hilton Head side of the bridges, they fear some of the RVs that aren’t moved regularly could break down, clogging the only way off the island.

Wes Breinich, an Indigo Run resident who owns a lot in the resort, is leading the push for the RVs to be moved every six months to prove they’re road-ready.

He said many vehicles at the park remain there year-round, and some residents don’t even own a vehicle to move the trailers.

“The scenario we have is a special one,” Breinich said. “You have an RV resort on the water, right next to the only bridge (off Hilton Head). I just don’t get why they’re going to be strict about enforcing their code on homes and mobile homes, but not RVs, especially ones parked in such a sensitive area.”

The county’s flood ordinance has three requirements for RVs parked in places at risk during storms: They must be road-ready, licensed and can’t be on site for more than 180 days.

But the county says it doesn’t have enough employees to fully enforce the law, so inspectors only check for valid registrations and to determine that trailers are up on jacks, rather than a foundation.

“They must be road-ready, that’s the key,” said Arthur Cummings, county director of codes enforcement. “We started patrolling the area to make sure they all have registrations and that the tags are current. We’re not going to require somebody to actually get in there, drive it a couple feet and then say, ‘OK, I’m satisfied.’ ”

That partial enforcement complies with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requirements that state such vehicles have to be on site for less than six months at a time — or be fully licensed and ready for highway use.

Dwight Blakeslee, president of the resort homeowner’s association and part-time resident since it opened in 1981, estimated that only about 10% of the park — about 20 lots — are occupied by people living there year-round.

He said the association has taken legal action against one owner who lives in Florida and left a camper in disrepair at the resort. The vehicle has four flat tires and is home to small wild animals.

The vast majority of the RVs are road-ready, he said, and the ones that aren’t should be left behind in the event of a storm rather than tested on such a critical stretch of U.S. 278.

“People ask me frequently, ‘If we have an evacuation, how long will it take an RV owner to hitch up and leave?’ ” Blakeslee said. “It’s not that difficult. I can hook it up and be out of here in an hour.”

When asked whether others were just as prepared, he responded, “I would think so, unless they have to rent a tow vehicle, which is going to take a little longer.”

Blakeslee recommends that owners routinely move the vehicles, but doesn’t think the association should get involved in enforcing a six-month rule.

“We have enough headaches over here without forcing the board of directors or manager to enforce something like that,” he said. “We’re working it out peacefully.”

Breinich, for his part, thinks it’s worth the trouble and could be done easily through the resort’s management office, which keeps a log of every lot and could sign off after people take their RVs out for short drives to prove their readiness.

“I don’t disagree it’s an inconvenience. It’s an inconvenience to build your house eight feet off the ground, but you do it anyhow,” he said.

John Bentley, whose family owns the marina, several lots and the rental agency for vacant lots, also is in favor of the moving requirement.

“We don’t want RVs to wind up in the harbor,” he said. “It just seems like such a simple thing for the county to say, ‘We have an ordinance, and we’re going to enforce it.’ “


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