Jessica Cejnar / Thursday, April 9, 2020 @ 3:35 p.m. / Infrastructure, Local Government
City Council Weighs-in On RV Living Regulations
Crescent City Councilors asked staff to approach creating regulations for long-term RV living as if it was a granny flat, backyard cottage or other accessory dwelling unit.
Councilors took issue with the potential $3,300 just in connection fees those seeking long-term permits could incur just hooking up their recreational vehicle to the city’s water and sewer systems.
Crescent City Mayor Blake Inscore said property owners should obtain the appropriate permits and do improvements to make sure their vehicle is properly connected to water, sewer and electricity. But, he said, unless someone was looking to rent the property out, he didn’t think the connection fee was appropriate.
“I think that part of what we’re doing with this is we’re really beginning to weigh in on the accessory dwelling unit discussion, which we haven’t really gotten into,” Inscore said, pointing out that many tiny homes are on wheels and are often towed around, like RVs. “My concern is that we don’t sway people from doing the right thing because they see the cost and they just go ahead with what they’re going to do without us knowing.”
Inscore argued that there should be consistency between the ordinance governing long-term RV living and accessory dwelling units.
“There’s so much similarity here that I think we need to be researching this before we just simply say it’s going to be this connection fee,” he said.
Public Works Director Jon Olson on Monday presented a short-term and long-term permits governing RV parking in residential areas. In both cases, the RVs are required to have a five foot clearance on all sides, he said.
For RVs parked on private residential property for less than 90 days, an over-the-counter permit is necessary, Olson said. The owner would be required to use the right size electrical cord, dispose of their sewage properly and ensure the vehicle has clean water. But site inspections wouldn’t be necessary unless there’s a nuisance complaint, Olson said.
RVs parked on residential property for more than 90 days would be subject to greater scrutiny. The owner would have to permanently install water, sewer and electricity and undergo architectural and a site plan review, Olson said. The vehicle must be parked on a gravel, concrete or other hard surface. The owner would also have to obtain a building permit and a use permit, he said.
The Crescent City Planning Commission’s recommendation to the Council allowed for some RV encroachment on the public right-of-way. However, the Council said they were concerned about potential hazards that could result from that encroachment.
City Manager Eric Wier said connecting an RV to water and sewer would cost roughly a third of a residential home, about $3,300. Water and sewer connection fees are set by ordinance with most residential developers paying $9,682 for sewer and $2,700 for water, Wier said.
Olson noted that with use and building permit fees, a resident could spend $10,000 to house someone in an RV on their property for more than 90 days. Their use permit would have to be renewed after a year. He also noted that the water and sewer connection costs were initial fees. Monthly fees for those services would depend on usage, Olson said.
Mayor Pro Tem Heidi Kime, expressing “sticker shock” at the connection fee, said the issue of RVs came up during a discussion about overall housing. Councilors were concerned about an RV owner parking their vehicle at a family member’s house and hooking their electricity up via an extension cord “across the sidewalk,” Kime said.
“If someone is utilizing this as a source of income, then a connection fee-type situation seems more appropriate,” she said. “But, I don’t know. Thirty-three hundred dollars just so that I can have someone stay in my driveway…”
According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, accessory dwelling units are considered a type of affordable home because they don’t require paying for land or building major infrastructure.
Olson said there are limits to what cities can charge to connect an accessory dwelling unit to existing water and sewage, though he would need to research what those limitations are.
Inscore, reiterating that he wanted a “sense of commonality” between how the city approaches accessory dwelling units and long-term RV parking, noted that people are going to be able to abide by state guidelines rather than those set by the city if the city doesn’t “put stuff on the books.”
He said there should also be discussion on how the city will enforce its rules governing both RVs and accessory dwelling units, especially since people already live in RVs.
“How are we going to educate the public,” he asked. “I would ask staff to look at some of that and when they bring it back, inform the public about these things and reach out to members of our city family who are already using RVs in a way that we are now goin got set some specific guidelines for.”