City OKs RV Park in 100-Year Floodplain
A recreational vehicle park may soon be developed at the western end of Montgomery Street near the Muskingum River in Marietta, Ohio.
Property owner Jerry Donahue was granted a special exception to the city zoning code by the Marietta Planning Commission earlier this month, paving the way for the RV park, The Marietta Times reported.
"This area had been used as a mobile home park since 1976 until 2004 when many of the homes there were damaged by flood waters," said Marietta attorney Dan Corcoran, who spoke to the planning commission on Donahue's behalf.
"The property covers about three acres and there are currently 11 mobile homes located there," Corcoran said. "There would also be room for approximately 17 RVs if this request is approved."
He said utilities, including water, sewer, and electric, are already available at the site.
"And what we're proposing is not a very dramatic change from the previous use of this property," Corcoran added. "The area is already zoned C-5, for recreation and entertainment, and we believe an RV park would be consistent for that use."
Joe Deem, of Marietta, who owns property that includes RV parking adjacent to Donahue's land, said his main concern for the planning commission was securing his RV lot from the park proposed by Donahue.
Deem also noted state regulations require restroom facilities if more than four RVs are to be located on a property at one time.
Washington County floodplain manager Connie Hoblitzell said that may be a state requirement but it was not part of the local floodplain regulations.
"And we'll still have to seek permitting from the state if this application to the planning commission is approved," Corcoran noted.
Marietta Mayor Michael Mullen, who sits on the planning commission, asked Donahue if he would be willing to erect a chain-link fence along his adjacent property line with Deem to address Deem's security concern.
Donahue agreed to construct the fence and the planning commissioners voted to approve his special exception application for the RV park.
"Setting precedent for future special exception requests is always a concern, so we have to consider each request on its own merit," Mullen said of the planning commission process.
He noted that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regulations also come into play when proposed facilities are within the 100-year floodplain.
"He can't put mobile homes back in there but the planning commission can grant a special exception if his plan meets our criteria," Mullen said of Donahue.
Another special exception for an RV park was granted earlier this year to Clyde Huddleston, owner of Huddleston Enterprises Inc., a recreational vehicle sales and service business on South Seventh Street.
Like Donahue, Huddleston plans to locate his RV park on former mobile home sites near his business.
"He filed his plans with adjacent property owners, then went before the planning commission who granted the special exception, with certain limitations," said city law director Roland Riggs III.
"But permission is not always granted," Riggs said.
"The first time Huddleston approached the planning commission they didn't grant the exception, so he took the request to city council and asked for a change in the zoning code that would allow RV parks in the city," Riggs noted.
After months of discussions that centered on what zone designation would best fit RV parks in the city, council failed to arrive at a consensus on the issue.
Huddleston then filed a lawsuit in an attempt to get the city zoning code changed but later dropped the suit after his second special exception request was finally granted by the planning commission.
But the current process of considering special exception requests on a case-by-case basis is cumbersome, at best.
"I still believe any legitimate use of property should be addressed in the city zoning code," said councilman Jon Grimm, R-3rd Ward, who chairs council's planning, zoning and annexation committee. "The code should cover RV parks and other zoning issues like the use of wind turbines within city limits.
"It wouldn't require a major change to the code, just an amendment to address issues like RV parks and wind turbines," Grimm said. "My personal opinion is that RV parks should be considered as C-3 zoning, like hotels. And if it would be addressed in the zoning code, it could potentially provide another source from which we could collect an extra bed tax."