Delaware County Faces RV/Park Model Issue
Historically, RV park proposals are rare in Delaware's Sussex County, but this year two have been proposed – Love Creek RV Resort and Campground and Massey's Landing Park; both are under consideration by county officials.
“We haven’t had a request for one in years,” Lawrence Lank, Sussex County Planning and Zoning office director, told the Cape Gazette, Lewes.
Massey's Landing Park, with 322 RV sites and 10 tent sites, is awaiting a county zoning-change decision. The project, near the public boat ramp at the end of Long Neck Road, has received entrance permits and a letter of no objections from the Delaware Department of Transportation.
Love Creek RV Resort and Campground, on Cedar Grove Road and near Ward Road, is awaiting a DelDOT traffic impact study, which, Lank said, was expected to be ready by March 15 but has been delayed.
Pending county approvals, the proposed campground would be situated on a 162-acre parcel and contain 628 camping sites – 516 for recreational vehicles, 30 for tents and sites for rental cabins.
Developer: Additional sites needed
Together, the two parks will add 838 new RV sites in Sussex County, which has an estimated total of 4,200 sites.
Nick Hammonds, a representative with Love Creek resort developer Lingo Assets Management, said the company thinks the area needs another RV park, especially in light of closure in 2007 of Three Seasons Campground, with more than 300 sites, near Rehoboth Beach Yacht and Country Club. Hammonds said the campground parcel reportedly sold for eight figures.
“That was a very successful campground, and its closure left a void of several hundred sites,” he said.
Hammonds said the Love Creek campground has not yet been designed and estimated it could cost $20 million for engineering, earthmoving, utility installation and road construction. He said the estimate does not include land costs.
“We’re not going to design the project until we know we have approvals,” he said.
Hammonds said the RV park is not a placeholder for a residential community. “We wouldn’t be putting money into designing and building an RV park only to have a plan in the future of tearing everything out to do a residential development.
“If we thought a residential development was the best use of that property, that would have been the plan we took in the first time,” he said, adding the company has home-building experience and is currently working in Senators, a development near Lewes.
Hammonds said the company is committed to improving Ward and Cedar Grove roads, and he says the RV park would generate less traffic than a housing development.
He said he expects a confirming traffic study to be submitted in the next 30 days or so.
Still, homeowners who would be living adjacent the RV park say they oppose the facility because it will generate too much traffic on Ward and Cedar Grove roads and on nearby Route 24. Residents also say the roads are too narrow for wide vehicles to use safely.
“It’s not appropriate for the area. It’s out of character, and it doesn’t offer any economic advantage,” said Paul Hammesfahr, a homeowner and president of The Retreat at Love Creek Homeowners Association. Hammesfahr said Ward Road couldn’t be sufficiently modified to handle RV traffic.
He also said fewer than 400 feet would lie between the adjacent Webbs Landing and Briarwood developments, a separation he said does not meet county regulations.
Park model RVs: Tax-free housing
RVs in Sussex County parks slip into a gray zone. RVs have wheels and, typically, their owners use them to travel from place to place with many of the comforts of home.
But in many local parks and campgrounds most RVs, especially those called park model RVs, are set up on a site and once there they are not moved.
Owners of RVs in parks do not pay Sussex County taxes; they pay park owners a seasonal lot rent plus utilities. Most owners leave their RVs on-site as long as they continue paying the seasonal rate.
Seasonal rates cover about six months, starting in May and ending in October when park owners shut off utility services.
Some parks offer ongoing customers special rates when they pay for the upcoming season in advance and reserve a selected site and allow RVs to remain on site if the seasonal fee is paid.
But many parks require RV owners to move out of the park at the end of each rental season.
Unlike some other Cape Region parks, the proposed Love Creek RV Resort and Campground will provide seasonal customers a reserved site, but it will require RVs to be moved and, for a fee, parked in an on-site storage area.
Park models are classified as RVs, yet once in place, they rarely hit the road again. “It’s a different animal,” says Sussex County Councilman George Cole, D-Bethany Beach, comparing a park model RV to typical RVs towed by a pickup truck or SUV.
Cole said park models started showing up in this area in the late ‘90s. He said RV park owners saw an economic advantage in making most of their sites seasonal-only, and the larger, well-appointed park models were becoming increasingly popular.
Seasonal customers pay a flat rate and most leave their RVs in parks year-round, blurring the line between a campground and a manufactured home park.
“At first they were very small; now they’ve gotten larger. Some of them have two stories,” Cole said in a May 29 interview.
He said county and state officials gave the park model an RV designation, and neither governing body has kept pace with changes to park models, which no longer resemble what people think of as RVs.
“The county never really addressed it. We tried to address it years ago,” Cole said.
He said when the governor issues a coastal evacuation order because of weather conditions, conventional RVs can easily leave the area.
“A park model doesn’t come and go easily,” Cole said, adding that towing one requires a special permit and a vehicle larger than a pickup truck.
He said owners of park model and other RVs do not pay Sussex County taxes but they benefit from county services, such as Sussex County Emergency Medical Services, which is paid for by county taxpayers.
Cole said he’d like to see the county set a limit on the number of park models permitted in future RV parks.
“We could allow only a certain percentage of park models in an RV park. County council has the ability to place conditions such as restricting park models,” he said.
Cole said the county could also derive revenue from existing and future park models by establishing a placement fee. He said owners who have park models already in place could be given a grace period before being required to pay the placement fee.
“Developers are looking at campgrounds as an attractive development, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But we need to address park models,” Cole said.
He said park models meet the definition of manufactured homes in Sussex County.