Oregon RV Park Battles ‘Nonconforming’ Reputation
The owner of a Warrenton, Ore., RV park cited last year by a Clatsop County hearings officer for violating numerous codes and zoning laws is appealing the decision with the state.
Ken Hick, owner of the Sunset Lake RV Park and Resort, filed an appeal with Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) earlier in the month in response to the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners’ refusal to hear his appeal of the hearings officer’s findings, The Daily Astorian reported.
Hearings Officer Paul Elsner cited Sunset Lake’s parent company, Resources Northwest Inc., and Hick in December for various code violations, including having as many as 91 sites occupied by “permanent” recreational vehicle dwellings, when only 16 sites are allowed.
The RV park is located in the extreme northwest tip of Oregon.
Ty Wyman, an attorney representing Resources Northwest, said the numbers are misleading because many of the park’s residents, who have month-to-month leases, “have moved out of the park.”
Resources Northwest, with an office in Tualatin, manages a large number of rental properties and storage units throughout Oregon and Washington.
In the company’s LUBA appeal, it challenges the county’s order, saying the park was grandfathered in as a nonconforming use and wouldn’t have to abide by existing zoning rules on density, the number of units and their locations and other requirements.
“Land-use codes are generally tightened over time,” Wyman said. “Once you’re out of compliance, you can only continue by the grace of nonconforming rights.”
County officials say there are no nonconforming rights and they want the owners to comply with the county’s current zoning codes.
They say Sunset Lake’s violations have worsened over the years.
According to the county, many of the recreational vehicle units are not connected to proper water lines, and many are disconnected from sewer or electrical service.
Other units are releasing gray water, which has lower contaminant levels than straight sewage, directly into Sunset Lake. One reason for the gray-water release is that many units are closer to the lake than the required 35-foot setback. Several units also violate a similar setback with Lewis Avenue.
“They have become far more nonconforming than they ever were in the past,” said Julia Decker, a county planner.
The county will supply the state with its record on the dispute by Friday, Decker said, after which Resources Northwest will have two weeks to file a response.
Hanging in the balance of LUBA’s decision, three to six months in the future, are hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Since Feb. 1, Resources Northwest has been accruing $4,200 a day in fines for not bringing Sunset Lake into compliance. That comes to $121,800 for the Leap-Day-lengthened month of February.
The county’s citation has upset many residents, who say they’d be homeless if it weren’t for the RV park.
In January, residents of the park began a letter-writing campaign in an attempt to compel county officials to reverse their decision. More than a dozen residents wrote to say that Sunset Lake was their last resort, or a place they moved to so they could get back on their feet, as they couldn’t afford to pay first and last month’s rent someplace else.
Wyman said he also believed the county’s decision would detrimentally affect the county’s low-income residents.
“There’s the deeper issue here of kicking people out of their homes,” he said. “This affects real people.”