$50 Annual Lease for RV Park Operator Ending
Glenn and Ronna Hardesty have lived in a travel trailer in the On the River RV Park near Garden City, Idaho, for three years. Both are disabled and unable to work. Last week, they learned they have 60 days to find another place to live.
Ada County, which owns the park between the Western Idaho Fairgrounds and the Boise River just north of Boise, is not renewing its lease with the park's operator, who has paid the county just $50 a year to lease the 11-acre, 182-site facility, the Idaho Statesman reported.
In 1990, Ada County approved a 20-year lease with B/Mor Inc., owned by Steve Birkinbine and Sharon Morrison.
The county intended for the park to be used on a short-term basis by vacationers and people traveling with carnival or horse racing circuits.
Over the years, though, more and more year-round residents have settled in, paying Birkinbine $405 a month to park their travel trailers or motor homes permanently.
Birkinbine said he has about 80 to 100 full-time residents — about half of the park's RV spaces.
Ada County estimates Birkinbine is making more than $350,000 a year off his $50 lease of public land — and that's just from the full-time residents, not the short-term visitors, who pay $31 a day or $180 a week. The county receives no other revenue from the prime riverfront site.
"He's been subsidized by county taxpayers for 20 years. Obviously it is a huge subsidy," Ada County Commissioner Sharon Ullman said.
Birkinbine answered just a few questions and refused to be interviewed further by the Idaho Statesman.
The county plans to close the park Sept. 30 for three months to assess the site and then decide whether to make improvements and reopen the RV park or use the land for something else.
The county also owns the park's amenities: an office, a shower-laundry building and propane-refill and sewer-dump facilities. The RV park is part of the county's 240-acre fairgrounds/racetrack complex abutting Garden City.
Garden City Councilman Jeff Souza is glad the RV park is closing.
He has had concerns about the park's transition from a campground to permanent residences and the county's lack of oversight on the park's operations.
The county's decision to end the RV park lease was not sudden; county officials have been counting the years until this lease expires.
If the county reopens the park it will be for short-term use only, Ullman said. One thing is for sure, the $50 annual lease for 20 years is not coming back.
"I would never sign a 20-year lease; it is a disservice to future boards," Ullman said. "Our hands have been tied for so long."
This is not the first time the county has found itself hamstrung by a long-term, low-cost lease.
NOWHERE TO GO
Finding a place to park and live long term in a recreational vehicle is not easy.
The Hardestys' 27-year-old travel trailer is too old — many private RV parks allow only vehicles 10 years or newer, and long-term stays are not allowed in state or national parks.
Stone Gate Mobile Home Park in Boise near Veterans Park allows older vehicles upon inspection, but it is full.
Stone Gate manager Melvin Brown said he's received about five calls from On the River residents wanting to relocate.
"Nobody is going to take us," Ronna said.
The couple was dismayed to learn the park's operators have known since late last year the county was not going to renew the lease. If Birkinbine had told residents sooner, they would have more time to find a new place to live, Glenn said.
Francis Deane has multiple sclerosis and is legally blind. She has lived in the park for about a year. Two weeks ago, she bought a 1979 trailer from the park's operators, who did not tell her at the time she would need to find a new place to park it.
"If they had told me, I would not have bought the trailer from them," she said. She says the stress of having to move has exacerbated her MS and she is worried she may end up in the hospital.
Like the Hardestys, she was upset to learn the park's operators waited until last week to tell her and other tenants.
"That burns me up," Deane said.
Ullman is also upset.
On March 31, county commissioners sent a letter to Birkinbine.
"We do want to reiterate that all tenants must vacate on or before Sept. 30, 2010," the letter said. "Six months' notice should facilitate the ability of long-term tenants to find alternate sites," states the letter.
But Birkinbine waited until July 28 to tell his tenants.
"I hope he steps up and helps these people. He's been making a lot of money off them," Ullman said. "I hope he doesn't leave them stranded."