Ohio River Town Says 'No' to RV Dwellers
Gas and oil pipeline workers and other transients who have been living in their RVs on town streets and in parking lots while working in or around Belmont, W. Va., will have to find more acceptable places to park at night.
Village Council members are going to enforce the 2002 ordinance that forbids campers and RVs from being parked in the corporate limits, The Intelligencer, Wheeling Times-Register reported.
"The ordinance is going to stand as it is," said Mayor Richard Thompson after he and council met behind closed doors for roughly 45 minutes Thursday night (Sept. 13).
No vote was taken before council entered the closed-door session, but Thompson said members needed to discuss legal matters with Village Solicitor Lindsey Tomlan.
"There will be no more campers in town," Thompson added.
Transporting natural gas out of eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia requires a large pipeline network, so hundreds of pipeliners are coming into the area to build this needed infrastructure. Many of them stay in hotels, rental housing or rural campgrounds specifically established to hold their RVs. The town, located on the Ohio River, has no RV parks.
After a few of these pipeliners recently began moving their campers into the Belmont corporate limits, some residents expressed concerns about how close the campers were to their property. Some residents even set up signs throughout the village to express displeasure with the campers presence.
Once those residents made their voices heard during a council meeting last week, the situation culminated Thursday. At the beginning of the packed meeting, Thompson allowed those on both sides of the issue to speak to council.
"I am living in a camper 1,300 miles away from our house," said Shayna Erwin, who stated that she and her children have put thousands of miles on their camper to be with her husband during his career as a natural gas pipeliner. "All I am asking you guys is to treat people like you would want to be treated."
Erwin's camper is situated on property owned by village property owner James Lewis, who asked fellow residents and council members to realize the situation would be "temporary."
However, village resident Donald Williams said he would have no problem with the campers being confined to their current locations, but he fears this may not be the limit.
"You are going to have a camper in your backyard – there will be campers in every vacant lot," he said.
"I have no privacy," said fellow concerned resident Maggie James. "They are not taxpayers. They are being afforded all of the things we are paying for."
Resident Grant Williams said if those who permanently live in Belmont must follow certain regulations, those regulations should be fairly applied.
John Tacosik was looking to set up some campers near the former village car wash that he owns.
"There is no ill-intent here. I don't think there is anything to be afraid of," he said.
After the council heard from the residents, Thompson called for the closed-door session.
Upon reopening the meeting, Thompson said the 2002 ordinance would be enforced. The law states, in part, "Mobile homes shall not be stored or parked outside of any mobile home park, except for properly affixed mobile homes currently in place. No living quarters shall be maintained or any business conducted within any mobile home …"
After Thompson said the ordinance would remain in place, Tacosik asked if council would consider a variance to the law to allow the campers to be placed anyway. Council and Thompson expressed no interest in such an idea.
Kenny Davis, who oversees the village's water and sewer systems as its president of public affairs, said he hoped Belmont would not get a "bad name" over the issue, emphasizing that residents have a right to express their concerns.