Private parks in several states across the country could face higher taxes, higher employee costs and earlier school start dates if the latest proposed legislation becomes law, the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) said in an announcement.
“Using our monitoring of the StateNet database we are seeing a significant increase in the number of proposed bills affecting private park operations across the country,” said Jeff Sims, director of state relations and program advocacy for ARVC.
Bills targeting increases in the minimum wage have been proposed in several states, including Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Oregon, South Carolina and Virginia. In most cases, states are proposing that their minimum wages be increased to at least $10 per hour, although some states are proposing graduated minimum wage increases over the next couple of years.
In South Carolina, legislation has been proposed that would give local school districts more autonomy in structuring their academic calendars as well as the number of days students need to be in school. Private parks often suffer from earlier school-start dates not only because it shortens the summer travel season, but because it cuts off parks’ access to high-school-student labor.
In Virginia, legislation has been proposed to allow counties to increase their transient occupancy taxes from 2% to 5%, while a proposal was made in South Dakota to increase licensing fees for food service, lodging and camping establishments.
In New York, legislation has been proposed that would make it illegal for registered sex offenders to stay at public parks. This legislation could potentially prompt park operators to start running background checks on their guests.
“Several of our state associations have asked us to monitor this type of legislation,” Sims said. “The question is, ‘What impact will legislation like this in the public sector have on the private sector and how would a law like this be monitored and implemented in the private sector?’ We are such a family oriented industry and the safety of our guests is always top of mind.”
ARVC monitors state and federal legislation on a daily basis and provides its findings as actionable intelligence to the association’s affiliated state campground association executives.
Cruise Inn, a brand of RV Parks, campgrounds and cabins with 14 locations in six states, announced that one of its own — Mari Garland, co-owner of Junction West RV Park in Grand Junction, Colo., — was elected to the board of directors of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) in December.
Representing Voting Area 5, Garland continues to make an impact on the outdoor hospitality industry since she and her husband, Tom, bought their park in 2007. Mari served on the board of the Colorado Campground and Lodging Owners Association (CCLOA) for six years, including two one-year terms as vice president and a three-year stint as co-president with her husband, and was a member of the ARVC Advisory Council in 2011.
“It is an honor to serve on the national level and represent the many family-owned campgrounds in my district. They have so much experience in the industry and offer such a unique perspective, so I welcome the opportunity to look out for their needs. I also look forward to being a national voice for outdoor hospitality and continuing to raise the professionalism of our industry,” said Garland.
Garland’s election during the 2014 Outdoor Hospitality Conference and Expo in Las Vegas was immediately followed by Cruise Inn’s first brand conference. Held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, the event allowed Cruise Inn park owners to meet each other and members of the corporate team, and included a series of interactive seminars and discussions pertaining to sales and marketing, revenue management, technology, customer relations and third-party operators.
“The conference was a great opportunity to meet fellow Cruise Inn members and I really enjoyed all the educational opportunities designed to increase revenue at our parks,” added Garland. “In particular, I appreciated the confirmation of the trend toward guests booking through online travel agencies, and seeing how being part of Cruise Inn will put my park on the leading edge and in the strongest business position. I also liked learning about the international exposure that Cruise Inn is able to provide, as I previously wasn’t in a position to reach that audience on my own.”
Launched in late 2013 by a group of experienced hospitality professionals, Cruise Inn provides membership opportunities to RV Park and campground owners and developers. Through this innovative offering, Cruise Inn maintains that it helps its members increase their return on investment through higher guest satisfaction, better revenue/yield management, meaningful loyalty programs, multiple booking channels (including its own) and effective sales and marketing.
For the second time in four years, Jellystone Park at Kozy Rest near Harrisburg, Pa., won the coveted “Park of the Year” award in their size category from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), an announcement from Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI) pointed out.
The award, which Denny Quigley and his son, Gary, received during a national awards ceremony at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, was issued in recognition of their park’s exceptionally high levels of customer service; employee training, operational excellence; national directory ratings; and community service. They also received the award in 2011.
The Quigleys were also recognized at the Yogi Bear Symposium in Cincinnati in November with eight awards, the highest being “Facility of the Year,” according to LSI, franchisor of the Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp-Resort chain.
One of the newer additions to the Yogi Bear Jellystone Park chain, Kozy Rest is a popular camping destination with organized family activities, weekend entertainment as well as 10 cabins and two yurt rentals.
Frequent guests and employees of the park said they were not surprised to hear the park received national recognition.
“It’s more than exceptional,” said Matt Neff of Butler, Pa. “They do such a great job of catering to families. I have a four-year-old and we go there every weekend during the summer.”
Neff added that the Quigleys solicit guest input on ideas for park improvements, and they follow through by consistently reinvesting in the park to provide the kinds of amenities and facilities guests want.
John Thornton of Venetia, Pa., said he and his family travel extensively, but spend half of their time at Jellystone Park at Kozy Rest because it provides an exceptional camping experience. “I’ve been going there for probably 15 years,” he said. “My kids grew up camping at that park.”
Jellystone Park co-owner Denny Quigley said his employees deserve credit — not only for providing their guests with an exceptional experience, but for helping transform the 170-site park into one of the best campgrounds in the country. “We are grateful for the incredible above-and-beyond effort our first-class team puts forth daily for our guests,” he said.
Indeed, when the Quigleys acquired the former Kozy Rest Kampground in Butler County 14 years ago, it was a park in need of TLC with very little seasonal or overnight business. Today, however, the park’s business is booming.
So much, in fact, that the Quigleys plan to add new playground equipment, a jumping pillow, a jumping pad and upgrade their fleet of rental bikes before next summer’s camping season. This will complement the park’s many other amenities, which include a recreational hall, a swimming pool, a mini golf course, a mining sluice and a dog park. The Quigleys joined the Jellystone Park chain in January of 2011.
Kozy Rest employees, for their part, said they feel honored to work for the Quigleys.
“I love working for them,” said Robbie Thompson, a retiree who works at Kozy Rest handling maintenance. “They treat their employees like family. They buy you donuts. They buy you lunch. They treat everyone equally. No one employee has preference over anyone else.”
Anthony Uniejewski, a graduate student at Slippery Rock University who is pursuing a Master’s degree in special education, said Kozy Rest is as wonderful for the employees as it is for the guests.
“It’s like the best-kept secret for a college student,” he said. “The family atmosphere they provide is unbelievable. They also really strive for customer satisfaction. We escort our guests to their campsite on a golf cart and guide them into their site. And if they need help, we will back it in for them. And when we have activities, whether it’s a horseshoe tournament or a balloon toss or a dunk tank, we make sure everybody is having a good weekend.”
The best part for Uniejewski, however, is dressing up as Yogi Bear. “Getting into that suit and seeing the reaction of the kids is amazing and rewarding,” he said.
The Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee, a group that by law makes recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, has recommended that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grandfather existing park model RVs to protect park operators and consumers from enforcement actions as HUD implements new regulations, according to the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
The advisory committee made the recommendations to HUD in a unanimous vote during a Dec. 2 meeting with top HUD officials. However, the committee did not put its recommendations in writing, according to Jeff Sims, director of state relations and government affairs for the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), adding that it’s unclear how HUD would respond to the committee’s recommendations.
HUD recently announced that it planned to figure porches in the 400-square-foot maximum marking the line between RVs and manufactured housing effective April 1, a move that alarmed park operators and park model RV manufacturers across the country.
“If park model RVs with factory-built porches are no longer defined as recreational vehicles, local zoning officials could require them to be removed from campgrounds,” Sims said. “The regulatory change could also make park models subject to local property taxes.”
The regulatory change would also change the way the square footage is calculated for park model RVs.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association RVIA) worked with its allies in Congress to introduce House Resolution 5658 in September to exempt park models of 400 square feet or less from the Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974, which forms part of the HUD code. HR 5658 would also protect the legal status of park models that have been placed in campgrounds during the past two decades.
ARVC President and CEO Paul Bambei also co-signed a letter to HUD Secretary Julian Castro with RVIA President and CEO Richard Coon and the National RV Dealers Association (RVDA) President Phil Ingrassia in which they urged HUD to withdraw its proposed regulatory changes until Congress has a chance to amend HUD law to protect the current status of park models.
ARVC also launched a national grassroots campaign that prompted 791 private-park operators to send 2,620 electronic letters to 335 members of Congress supporting the passage of HR 5658. However, Congress failed to take action on the legislation during the lame-duck session, so it will have to be reintroduced next year.
“We have every reason to believe that House and Senate bills addressing the park model porch issue and other related issues will be introduced in the new Congress,” Sims said. “When and if the timing is right, ARVC may again ask its members to contact their Congressional members.”
More than 900 park owners and operators, vendors, state and industry leaders gathered at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas last week for the annual Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo (OHCE), the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) said in a written announcement about the event.
The Dec. 2 to 5 conference and expo included more than 50 educational seminars, a three-day expo showcasing more than 100 vendors as well as updates from ARVC President and CEO Paul Bambei.
In his annual address, Bambei said ARVC is saving park operators money through its continued development of its Member Benefit Provider and Supplier partner programs that offer members unique pricing programs and discounts on the products and services they need.
Last year alone, ARVC’s exclusive music licensing program with ASCAP and BMI saved members over $580,000, Bambei said.
ARVC is also helping park operators generate more visibility through a new PR effort launched in May with partner KemperLesnik, a Northbrook, Ill.-based public relations agency. During the past year, Bambei said, KemperLesnik secured 43 media placements that featured ARVC member campgrounds. These placements generated 96 million impressions in major media outlets, including USA Today, Yahoo! Travel and Parade magazine, which together had an advertising value of $1.5 million. This effort also successfully employed several new social media initiatives aimed at extending reach to current and potential camper markets.
The conference also featured a report by Peter Yesawich of MMGY Global, which recently conducted a national survey, on behalf of ARVC, to help the association understand current active camper attitudes and perspectives about camping in public versus private parks, as well as why many outdoor enthusiasts do not camp.
While the survey found that private parks are doing a good job of meeting the needs of today’s consumers, it also identified significant marketing opportunities that will enable ARVC to further strengthen its marketing efforts.
During his annual address, Bambei also discussed how ARVC is making life easier for park operators through its aggressive government affairs program, which includes daily monitoring of proposed state and federal regulations.
During the first nine months of this year, ARVC reviewed 11,132 proposals for new state legislation as well as proposed changes in regulations, 420 of which the association referred to its state affiliates for additional action and intervention.
ARVC also launched a strategic move to rewrite many of the nationally recognized standards for private parks, Bambei said.
These standards are contained in a variety of federal laws and regulations, including the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1194 Standard for Recreational Vehicle Parks & Campgrounds, the National Electric Code NFPA 70, the Uniform Plumbing Code, and the Americans With Disabilities Act Series 1006.
ARVC formed an NFPA 1194 committee earlier this year and is developing a series of proposed changes in the 2017 revision cycle that will address Americans With Disabilities Act requirements for campsites, evictions and ejections, length of stay, as well as zoning and taxation issues involving park model RVs.
ARVC is focusing its attention on NFPA 1194 because that is the nationally recognized standard that the association uses when it works with state and local governments involving proposed regulations.
ARVC has also partnered with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and the National RV Dealers Association (RVDA) to support House Resolution 5658, which would legally clarify the definition of park models as RVs.
The proposed legislation would exempt park models of 400 square feet or less from the Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974, which forms part of the HUD code.
Bambei went on to say that ARVC is helping park operators gain the knowledge they need through a variety of educational resources, which include informative articles in the ARVCNews e-mail newsletter and the ARVC Voice magazine, as well as expanded programs offered through the association’s Outdoor Hospitality Education Program.
Bambei said enrollment in the Outdoor Hospitality Education Program is up by 50% and that a new western campus for the National School of RV Park and Campground Management will be offered in Denver from July 6 to 10.
OHCE attendees said they were pleased with the networking and educational opportunities they received, which included a variety of seminars, cracker barrel discussions, Successful Park Operations Tours as well as half-day sessions that provided detailed information on Wi-Fi systems and how to secure business loans.
“It’s been great meeting people, networking with other parks and having the vendors all in one place,” said Phil Martin, who just got into the campground business in February after purchasing Lassen RV Resort in California.
Martin said he met several other people at OHCE who are interested in building their own parks from scratch and he was able to connect some of them with other helpful park operators he met at the convention.
“People who come to the convention are willing to help each other,” said Patti Bigelow, co-owner of the 86-site Gammy Woods Family Campground in Weidman, Mich.
Bigelow attended OHCE for the first time in 2012, about six months after she and her family had first gotten into the campground business.
“I learned a lot [at my first OHCE] about the things I shouldn’t have done and things I should do,” Weidman said, adding that she makes OHCE a priority because the educational seminars and networking opportunities help her improve her business.
Wendy and Jamie Wolfinger, second- and third generation co-owners of the 1,060-site Greenwood Acres Family Campground in Jackson, Mich., said they particularly enjoyed the expert roundtable.
This year’s OHCE also included an expo with more than 100 vendors, many of whom had never been to a campground industry expo before.
First timers included Staples Advantage, which has a member benefits program with ARVC that includes discounts on office supply and janitorial products as well as free site surveys to help park operators identify ways to reduce their office and janitorial supply costs while improving their recycling efficiencies.
“We’ve had a terrific response,” said Lindsay Cordova, who serves as the Staples Advantage representative for ARVC members. “I definitely want to come back to this show next year.”
Other first-time OHCE vendors included Robert McCutcheon III, president of McCutcheon’s Apple Products, Inc. in Frederick, Md., who offered park operators a wide selection of jams, jellies, salsas and old fashioned bottled soft drinks, all of which can be private labeled for park operators who wish to feature these products in their camp stores.
“I’ve gotten 50 to 60 solid contacts, which I consider a very good response for a show of this size,” McCutcheon said.
Vendors who typically attended OHCE also reported strong sales and leads.
“This is one of the best shows I’ve had in recent years,” said Pete Parafin of Fluid Manufacturing, which specializes in coin-operated controls for showers and other equipment. “People are ready to buy now and I’ve been planting a lot of seeds for the spring season.”
Dick Grymonprez, director of park model sales for Champion/Athens Park Homes, said the show was productive for his company too, and generated leads for all seven of his company’s park model manufacturing factories across the country.
Other OHCE activities included the election of new ARVC board members, the association’s annual awards program as well as the ARVC Foundation auction.
Next year’s OHCE is scheduled for Nov. 3 to 6 in Daytona Beach, Fla. More information is available at www.arvc.org/OHCE.
The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) detailed results of the national survey it commissioned to help the association further develop its marketing efforts, ARVC announced today (Dec. 11), six days after rolling it out in Las Vegas at the association’s Outdoor Conference on Hospitality and Expo (OHCE).
“We want to better educate and engage consumers about the unique experiences afforded by private parks and ultimately stimulate more camper nights,” said Jennifer Schwartz, ARVC’s vice president of marketing, in the association's written announcement.
With these objectives in mind, ARVC and its business forum industry partners commissioned a survey by MMGY Global, a world-renowned travel research and marketing firm, to better understand the specific motivations of current campers who visit private versus government run campgrounds, as well as outdoor enthusiasts who do not currently camp.
“The survey revealed significant opportunities that can help us further refine and strengthen our marketing content and reach by more effectively utilizing our existing channels like GoCampingAmerica.com, as well as social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter,” Schwartz said, adding that the survey provides ARVC with a useful roadmap as the association expands its marketing and media relations efforts.
The survey confirmed that private parks are indeed providing the types of amenities and experiences that their campers desire. It also provided insights into significant marketing opportunities among outdoor enthusiasts who do not camp as well as people who stay in government-run campgrounds.
It also found that the primary reason outdoor enthusiasts do not camp is because they want a comfortable bed and a roof over their head as well as normal restroom facilities— all of which private parks already provide through furnished park model RVs, cabins, yurts and other rental accommodations.
“ARVC can, therefore, help convert noncampers into campers by developing more compelling messages highlighting the variety of campground rental accommodations that are available that can easily satisfy the needs most expressed by people who do not currently camp,” Schwartz said.
The survey also found that most people who camp in government run campgrounds have a strong interest in camping in private parks, but more than a third of them don’t know how to find privately owned and operated campgrounds.
With this information in hand, ARVC now knows that it can help strengthen private-park occupancies by expanding its marketing efforts to include media channels used by government-park campers with messages targeted specifically to their interests.
In addition, the survey revealed that the percentage of American leisure travelers who camp is on the rise and that there is significant room for growth. The percentage of American leisure travelers who camp increased from 10% in 2010 to 12% this year.
Peter Yesawich of MMGY Global presented the survey’s key findings last week during the OHCE.
The online survey was conducted in July and involved 1,000 outdoor enthusiasts who were at least 25 years old. Of the respondents, 300 were campers who had camped at least once at a government run-campground during the previous 12 months, while another 300 had camped at least once at a private campground during the same period. The remaining 400 respondents were outdoor enthusiasts who had not gone camping during the preceding 12 months.
The event had some pre-show event Sunday and Monday, but two optional workshops started this morning and the opening lunch will begin at noon Pacific, followed by educational seminars and an evening cracker barrel.
The event, at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino, will feature a robust exposition trade show which ARVC had to expand after initially selling out all the space, according to ARVC Vice President Jennifer Schwartz.
The expo opens Wednesday evening. The conference will end Friday with a closing luncheon.
Campground operators often invest considerable time and effort into developing attractive websites for their parks because they know that websites can be powerful marketing tools.
Unfortunately, many websites go unnoticed by consumers because they don’t show up in the first couple of pages of a Google search, according to an announcement from Texas Advertising’s TXAD Internet Services.
“This happens when a website isn’t optimized to match the search criteria Google is looking for,” said Braden Walker, senior web developer for TXAD Internet Services, which will be offering free website diagnostic services Wednesday to Friday of this week during the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) Outdoor Hospitality Conference an Expo at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.
“We will run search-engine optimization (SEO) reports for anyone that wants one,” Walker said. “These reports will provide park operators with information on what’s working on their website, what needs to be fixed, and where they rank on particular keyword searches.”
TXAD Internet Services will also provide information on its new SEO services, which can enable park operators to not only update their websites, but to develop content strategies that can help them achieve higher rankings on Google searches.
Walker said Google’s search engine not only looks for certain keywords in certain places of a website, but it examines the depth of information provided on a website and how frequently the website is updated with blog postings or other fresh content.
“Google doesn’t want stagnant websites,” Walker said. “They want to showcase websites that are constantly putting new information out there for their customers.”
Google is doing this, Walker said, because they have realized that many companies have tried to “game the system” simply by loading their websites with certain keywords.
So Google has raised the bar and developed sophisticated search tools that enable them to sort the stagnant websites from websites that are constantly being loaded with fresh content.
Northeast Campground Association (NCA) Executive Director Cyndy Zbierski sent an update to NCA members Thursday evening (Nov. 6) to remind them to speak up and contact their congressional representatives to support the outdoor industry on legislation that would provide a clear legal definition of RVs. The legislation, championed by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and National RV Dealers Association (RVDA), would, among other things, prevent the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from changing its view on how park model RV square footage is figured, as HUD signaled in an Oct. 1 memo.
Zbierski's note is below.
NCA sent its first member email alert on October 10th highlighting the need for your action to support H.R. 5658. Thank you to those who have contacted their Members of Congress on The Recreational Vehicle Certainly Act of 2014. The numbers show that many of us still need to take five minutes to understand the possible impact of this new HUD memo and to make sure our concerns are heard as an industry. Here is an update as to what is already happening in just one of our NCA member states:
"In Maryland, we are already having issues with processing titles to park model RVs. Even though the HUD ruling is not in effect until April, at least one of our Department of Motor Vehicle divisions is questioning how to title a unit with a porch manufactured on it. What I find amazing is how quickly this has become a 'real world' problem.
"I'll admit that when I first heard about the HUD ruling, I didn't think it affected campgrounds and was more of a manufacturer/dealer issue. But then I actually read the information provided by RVIA, RVDA and ARVC, and I knew this was not a tropical storm that would blow over – it was a full force hurricane that had taken a direct hit on our industry. With no warning, no discussion and clearly as arbitrary as Mother Nature, HUD has caused quite a problem. I can't say strongly enough that we all need to get involved. It will take maybe one minute to hit the link, fill in your information and contact your representatives. Please just do it!" – Deb Carter, Buttonwood Beach RV Resort and Executive Director of the Maryland Association of Campgrounds.
Campground operators will be able to personalize a letter to their representative and two senators and have that message sent without the hassle of searching for contact information for their members of Congress directly from the Take Action area on the above link.
By simply filling in their campground's address the software takes care of the rest. Just click Send Message and your message will reach the right people in Washington, DC.
But every campground is strongly encouraged to personalize the letters as much as possible. Campgrounds should include how many people they employ and exactly where they are located in the first paragraph of the messages.
The most important thing, though, is to click on the link to Action Alert and send a message to Washington, D.C. and to do it TODAY. Here are the numbers as of 11/4/2014:
|NCA ACTIVIST STATE||TOTAL NCA ACTIVISTS||TOTAL ADVOCACY MESSAGES|
Note: By comparison, New Jersey was in fourth place nationally this week, behind Florida, California and Wisconsin and ahead of Texas, according to information provided by the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds.
Now that attempts failed to get the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to reverse a subordinate's memo changing how HUD looks at park model RVs, leaders in the campground and RV industries are pinning their hopes on Congress to head off problems for RV parks and campgrounds across the U.S., and have made it easy for campground owners and operators to show their support
Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), who represent the neighboring districts in the heart of the RV industry in northern Indiana, introduced House Resolution 5658, the "Recreational Vehicle Certainty Act."
Outdoor industry groups are pushing their members to reach out to Congressional representatives and voice support for the act, which would provide legal clarity that, among other things, porches on park model RVs don't count against the 400-square-foot living space limit — as had been HUD's view until last month.
"We’ve made quite a bit of progress," said Jeff Sims, director of state relations and program advocacy for the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC). As of this week, Sims told Woodall's Campground Management, 640 park had reached out to their representative and their senators. "They've sent out 2,103 messages and contacted 310 members of Congress," Sims said.
ARVC has partnered with Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and Leisure Systems Inc. (LSI), as well as state associations that aren't affiliated with ARVC, to get the word out. "The issue is far beyond affiliation," Sims said.
"This is kind of a long shot, but we need some immediate guidance and relief because it's got a lot of our members in limbo," Sims said. As things stand, HUD will start counting factory-made porches as part of the living space for park model RVs, which have a maximum of 400 square feet of living space.
In addition to campground groups, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and National RV Dealers Association (RVDA) are working together with ARVC on the issue, which has a huge impact, Sims said.
"You’re talking about nearly $145 million in potential lost revenue," he said. Though HUD's new standards will only be in effect from April on, that doesn't prevent states or local governments from looking at existing park model RVs, popular rental options in RV parks and campgrounds, differently, Sims said.
"What do you do when it’s no longer classified an RV and it certainly can’t be classified as manufactured housing because it’s not constructed to those standards? You’ve got an investment there, overall the average investment is $21,000 per park. We’re small businesses. What do you do with that unit?
"A lot of business licenses don’t allow anything other than recreational vehicles. Are they now in noncompliance with their business licenses? Will it have to be revmoved? Will it have to be condemned? Will it have to be renovated to new codes? I don’t have the answers to that," Sims said. "When it comes to the local jurisdictions, there will be additional interpretations," Sims told WCM.
In an e-mail to ARVC and other industry partners summarizing the Oct. 22 meeting with HUD staff, Matt Wald of the RVIA said HUD officials were indifferent to campground and RV industry concerns about HUD’s reclassification of park model RVs, which it outlined in an Oct. 1 memorandum.
Maryland Association of Campgrounds Executive Director Deb Carter said HUD’s new interpretation of park models leaves campgrounds and campers in legal limbo with regard to park model RVs that were bought and installed under HUD’s previous park model guidelines, according to an announcement from ARVC.
While HUD might not take enforcement action against existing units, Carter agreed with Sims that it is likely that local tax, zoning and building officials will. She asked HUD staff whether they had considered what would become of these units when it was time to renew insurance, registration, titling, or financing for these RVs now that the HUD memo says they are no longer RVs. She asked what she could tell a local tax authority who decided to change the tax classification of park models in her campground from RVs to housing based on the HUD memo.
HUD staff had no answer for any of these concerns, Wald said. “In fact,” he said, “it appeared to be the first time they had heard or even considered these unintended consequences of their action. And yet they still continued to insist that this memorandum would not be withdrawn, stating that it was their ‘statutory obligation to enforce the memorandum’s interpretation,’ regardless of the effect the memo would have on the campground industry.”
Speaking on behalf of park model RV manufacturers, Dick Grymonprez of Champion/Athens Park Homes asked what possible safety concerns triggered HUD to issue a memorandum that makes factory added park model porches illegal.
“HUD’s counsel conceded that the agency did not issue the memo out of a health or safety concern, but instead that it was ‘a purely legal distinction’ that HUD staff felt compelled to make and that as such it would be enforced no matter whether it is needed or not,” Grymonprez said in ARVC's announcement.
Wald told ARVC that industry participants left the meeting frustrated and felt that the only way they can protect park model RVs is to support HR 5658, which would exempt park models of 400 square feet or less from the Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974, which forms part of the HUD code. It would also protect the legal status of park models that have been placed in campgrounds during the past two decades.
Park model RVs have previously been technically defined as recreational vehicles according to HUD, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A119.5 standard and a majority of states’ laws. This makes park model RVs exempt from property taxes. But the descriptions of park model RVs in the HUD code are not as clear as they could be and not every state clearly defines park models as a type of RV.
Sims told WCM that after that meeting, "It’s frustrating for the average park owner out here. They’re going to certainly take it on the chin and bear the brunt of this."
"There’s limited ways to correct this issue. One is through regulatory, which is very time consuming and certainly couldn’t happen prior to that April 1 date," and that one's less likely thanks to HUD's stance, Sims told WCM.
"People have bantered around you can sue HUD, but that’s too costly. We are a small association representing small businesses," he continued.
With the executive and judicial options effectively off the table, the focus is on the legislative branch. "We have put in motion every opportunity for park owners around the country, affiliated an non affiliated, to participate in this and get their message heard, their voice heard in the U.S. Congress. I don’t know how much easier we can make it," Sims said.
While he knows that campground owners are busy and "just want to run their parks," he also pointed out that "They want to do it without regulations that are going to strangle them and drown small business."
Campgrounds and RV parks in flood plains can find factory-built porches advantageous compared to porches added on in the site, at least in case of floods.
"It's a huge issue. It really is. Everybody is coming together — manufacturers, dealers and the park operators — because we’re really all in this together. It has a major impact on everyone," Sims said. It's a matter of protecting existing investments in parks and also promoting future growth.
"One of the single largest segments of our industry has been park models. For campground owners that are going to rent those out and it provides the consumer the opportunity to enjoy the outdoor recreation industry without the investment of the equipment," Sims told WCM. "It exposes another segment of the population to the outdoors."
The site at RVACT.com has a page, accessible here, that lets campground and RV park operators not only find their representative and senator, but also provides pre-written sample text that can be sent to their legislators with the click of a button.
"We’ve modified it and simplified it. I don’t know any other way to assist the park owners in identifying their members of Congress and getting the message to them.
"This isn’t a time to be a spectator. This is time to get in the game," Sims said. "It’s simple, it’s easy but it can make a difference."