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North Dakota RV Park Owners Argue Case at City Hall

December 6, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

An ordinance change for campgrounds has residents of Dickinson, N.D., afraid they could be on the streets.

Concerned tenants at campgrounds said Monday (Dec. 5) the Dickinson City Commission should make clarifications on language that would require owners to limit their stay in campgrounds in agriculture zones to 14 days. Language would also require campgrounds allowing occupants to stay longer than 14 days to get a special-use permit, the Dickinson Press reported

The intent of the ordinance change was to prevent campgrounds from becoming “man camps”, Commission President Dennis Johnson said.

After plenty of testimony from residents during a public hearing at City Hall, the commission voted unanimously to pass the first reading of the ordinance change with the condition that the 14-day limit be cut.

“Campgrounds provide a viable, necessary component to the city’s attractions,” said Bert Lombard, Dickinson’s Camp on the Heart RV Park owner. “It also provides suitable, pleasant and alternative places for people to stay, especially when all other forms of lodging are full. I feel restrictions imposed on campgrounds may only detract from the city’s attractiveness.”

Lombard said there are a variety of reasons people may need to stay in Dickinson campgrounds for long periods of time, such as getting sick, closing a house, disasters and providing services to the area.

“No one can predict the future,” he said.

Ted Bratten, the North Park Campground owner in Dickinson, said the ordinance also would limit his ability to do business.

“What you are saying is we have to limit how long people can live there and what type of people,” Bratten said. “Do I have to get a piece of paper out and say, ‘Are you a tourist? Do you have any classifications that say you are a tourist?’ It’s so out of trade that it doesn’t make sense to me.”

Bratten said the business should get to choose who gets to live in their campgrounds and not the city.

Tina Walker, who resides in North Park, moved here from Kingman, Ariz., with her son. She said she would have nowhere to go if the ordinance passed.

“It would be horrible for my son and me to be out on the street,” Walker said. “I don’t want to be homeless. I don’t want my son to be homeless either.”

Bratten asked several people living in North Park to come to the meeting so he could “put a face on the people.”

“If we put that into ordinance into place, those people right there will be on the street in two weeks,” Bratten said. “I don’t think that is what we want. I can sell my land and make a good profit, but I can’t find a good home for them.”

City Administrator Shawn Kessel said North Park and Camp on the Heart RV Park were zoned as mobile home residential, and the ordinance would not affect the sites, but owners brought up another issue.

Bratten’s wife, Maureen, said North Park is licensed as a campground through the North Dakota Department of Health, adding the city needs to clarify what is a campground. Maureen Bratten added she understood what the commission was trying to accomplish by passing the ordinance change, but she and her husband are trying to meet the needs of the economy.

“We are not going to turn these people away that need a place to live,” Maureen Bratten said. “They just want to have a safe place to call home.”

The commission will have a public meeting for the second reading Dec. 19. Johnson said the city needs to clarify what is considered a campground.

“I think, from what I am hearing, that this is more complicated than what was assumed,” Johnson said. “There is quite a bit of work here to do.”

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