Jersey Decision May Hurt Park Model Industry
Operators of a New Jersey campground and RV dealership have lost their appeal of a case involving the rental and placement of recreational park trailers or park models in the Garden State.
In a recent decision, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appealate Division, sided with the state's Department of Community Affairs in a case involving the Tall Timbers Property Owners Association Inc., Pleasant Acres Campground Inc. and owners Edward and Deanna Tilton. The court ruled that park model or recreational park trailers fall under the same guidelines as manufactured housing.
On Nov. 30, 2006, the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) adopted an interpretive regulation, N.J.A.C. 5:23-9.3, which determined that recreational park trailers are subject to the State Uniform Construction Code, adopted under the authority of the Uniform Construction Code Act (UCC Act), N.J.S.A. 52:27D-119 to -141. On June 17, 2008, the DCA adopted a new set of regulations, which established standards for the design, manufacture, and installation of recreational park trailers, N.J.A.C. 5:23-4D.
Appellants, who are a seller of recreational park trailers, the owner of a 290-site campground in Sussex, N.J., where recreational park trailers are installed and the owners of a recreational park trailer, challenged the validity of these regulations on three grounds:
- The UCC Act does not confer authority upon the DCA to regulate recreational park trailers under the code.
- The DCA's regulation of recreational park trailers is pre-empted by the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act (Manufactured Housing Act), 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 5401-5426, and the regulations adopted thereunder.
- The DCA adopted these regulations without conducting the analysis required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act, N.J.S.A. 52:14B-16 to -21.
The court heard arguments Feb. 23 and returned its decision April 26, rejecting appellants' arguments and affirming the validity of N.J.A.C. 5:23-9.3 and N.J.A.C. 5:23-4D.
Jay Otto, executive director of the New Jersey Campground Owners Association (NJCOA), informed his membership of the court's decision last week.
In an e-mail to Woodall's Campground Management, Otto noted, "Tall Timbers has spent a lot of money along with donations from ARVC, NJCOA, and NJRVDA fighting these regulations, however I am not surprised by the outcome. You have people making decisions in creating rules, and the interpretation, who have little knowledge of our industry and how and what recreational vehicles are and how they are used in our state. We have state codes that prohibit residency and domicile in a campground yet they create more restrictive regulations just because they can.
"I don’t believe Tall Timbers will pursue this any further. We in New Jersey will have to abide by the stringent restrictions or not purchase park trailers. The DCA has said in the past that they could regulate travel trailers if they wanted to. There has been a anti-business climate in New Jersey for years and we are now looking forward to that changing with our new governor, Chris Christie."
Here is an excerpt from the court's opinion:
The regulatory authority that Title 39 confers upon the Motor Vehicle Commission regarding recreational park trailers is limited to their operation upon highways; it does not extend to their installation in a mobile home park or campground. Thus, N.J.S.A. 39:10-6 requires a recreational park trailer to be registered with the Motor Vehicle Commission before the owner may operate it on a highway, and N.J.S.A. 39:3-43 confers authority upon the Motor Vehicle Commission "to pass upon the construction and equipment of any vehicle . . . with a view to its safety for use in a street or highway[.]" (Emphasis added). However, Title 39 does not require the owner of a recreational park trailer that is simply parked in a mobile home park to register it with the Motor Vehicle Commission, and Title 39 does not confer authority upon the Commission to regulate the safety of a recreational park trailer as a place of human habitation. Therefore, like the Department of Health and Senior Services' regulation of mobile park owners and operators, the Motor Vehicle Commission's regulation of the operation of recreational park trailers on public highways is complementary, rather than antagonistic, to the DCA's regulation of the installation of those trailers in mobile home parks and campgrounds.
To read the court's opinion on this matter, click here.