TVA Campgrounds Face Uncertainty in 2013
Changes to campgrounds regulations and pricing on Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) land are on hold while an association of campers, marina and campground owners sue over the changes, leaving some wondering what the possible changes mean for them.
Marshall County Tourism Director Randy Newcomb told The Paducah Sun no one knows what to expect should the new policies take effect because each campground has a different agreement with TVA.
“It’s still unknown, which amazes me that they’re going ahead with a plan with this many unknowns. Nobody is getting the information they need,” Newcomb said. “No matter what, it’s not going to be fair as long as there are different agreements.”
TVA began changing campgrounds regulations and pricing in 2010, citing the need to streamline agreements and provide equal public access to properties leased to private businesses. Policies were set to be implemented Jan. 1, 2013, but a lawsuit has delayed some of changes for at least one more month.
The new rules were supposed to go into place on Tuesday, but the Shoreline Alliance filed suit in federal court Dec. 10, temporarily blocking implementation.
Differences come in the variety of leases and easements offered by TVA. Some are permanent with no changes expected. Under new regulations, remaining marinas and campgrounds will have to pay either the fair market property value or a gross percentage of revenue to TVA. The minimum rent for either method is $1,561 for 2012, regardless of property size. That price will increase by $31 in 2013 and $32 for both 2014 and 2015.
TVA is also enforcing regulations barring anyone from building porches, patios or any other permanent structure. Campers will have to be moved off the property for at least two weeks each year and placed into a lottery for spaces available at each campground.
A preliminary hearing on campground changes is set for Jan. 17 in federal court in Jackson, Tenn. Dan Norwood, a Memphis, Tenn., attorney for Shoreline Alliance, said the group asked for the preliminary injunction prior to Dec. 31 to oppose changes.
Spokesman Scott Brooks said TVA has agreed not to enforce the permanent structure requirement at 69 campgrounds until Jan. 31. Marina fees were set to go into effect Tuesday.
Norwood said TVA’s plan will decrease longtime campers who prefer the long-term stay.
“This is going to be very disruptive to them,” Norwood said. “They’ve shown no need for these types of disruptions.”
Larry Hellkamp, owner of Southern Komfort Resort and Campground in Aurora, said those returning campers have fueled his business for 25 years. Southern Komfort has 140 lots, with 135 normally filled by seasonal campers. Hellkamp said that’s down to less than 60 this year as guests prepare for restrictions.
“The losses that we’ve taken are quite extensive,” Hellkamp said. “They use their campers at most 100 to 115 days a year, but when they come, they’ve worked out schedules with their neighbors to enjoy their company.”