Gearhart considers limited RV camping permit

Police Chief Jeff Bowman explained the difficulty of enforcing Gearhart's RV rules during a November meeting. New ordinances will be presented in April.

GEARHART — If you’re a property owner and you have an RV in Gearhart, you can park on your property. But you can’t live or camp in the RV. The city seeks to change that rule with a modification permitting RV owners to use their campers twice a year, for a period of no more than 96 hours each.

Those without the permit would be subject to a fine.

“The ordinance as it stands, which allows people to stay in their RVs 96 hours at a time, twice a year, through a permit, is going to a hearing and a vote in April,” City Administrator Chad Sweet said.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, councilors presented an ordinance permitting residents to obtain the permit. According to the proposed ordinance, RVs cannot be parked in the public right of way and the permit may be revoked by the police chief or enforcement officer.

Homeowners may store RVs on their property permanently as long as they are not living in it. “This is just covering private property and being able to stay in the RV,” Sweet said.

After approving consideration of the new ordinance, City Planner Carole Connell “will put her findings together as to the code,” Sweet said. “This will go to the City Council to make its decision.”

A separate ordinance limiting RV public areas is also before the council, driven by a suggestion by Gearhart Police Chief Jeff Bowman, who sought to make the “no sleeping” portion of the city’s ordinance enforceable. This ordinance would be directed to those RV owners who “drive during the day, sightsee, find someplace and set up camp,” Bowman said Thursday.

Bowman proposed language prohibiting RVs “parked or standing on blocks, leveling supports, pop-outs displayed or open,” to enable enforcement.

Without it, he would have no way of knowing if someone was sleeping in the RV or not. “The main term here is ‘sleep,’” he said. “There’s no way we can have any type of proof or evidence that they’re sleeping in it.”

Bowman said any new ordinance prohibiting RV parking should not refer to “sleeping,” but “storage.”

According to Bowman in a letter to the council in November, a recent violation was rejected by a judge “who explained that appearance of use has no bearing. The violator can simply say he isn’t sleeping or eating in the RV under current rules.” He said he would like an ordinance specifying prohibitions on how it is stored. “I don’t care if you roll up in your RV and it’s legally parked for two days. A motor home is still a vehicle. But you can’t have your pop-outs out on it, you can’t have the tent trailer popped out, you can’t be running portable generators, you can’t have utilities hooked up to it. I’m going to steer it more toward a zoning thing than a law enforcement thing. Right now we can’t enforce it.”

The council change in the 96-hour ordinance will be presented to the public for discussion at the council’s next meeting.

A related ordinance, prohibiting RVs from camping in spaces open to the public other than RV resorts, was tabled until April. A draft ordinance will be presented in April, Sweet said.

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