New Martinsville City Council has passed the first reading of an ordinance to revise the city's rules on recreational vehicles, limiting their use.
The unanimous vote was taken during the body's regular meeting on Nov. 7. It came after some discussion involving City Building Inspector Joe Hanna and several residents.
The last time the city passed the first reading of a similar ordinance, July 6, council ended up tabling the ordinance on Aug. 1 after a standing-room-only crowd spoke out against that ordinance and more vocally against one that would prohibit natural gas exploration and gathering activities within city limits.
The new ordinance states that RVs and tents shall not be considered dwelling units, occasional and incidental camping on public and private property may be allowed for a period of up to five days, and RVs cannot be used as a private residence or sleeping place. In a seemingly other RV issue, it states, "A recreational vehicle shall not be used for business purposes other than vehicles equipped for the purpose of food preparation and the selling of such products to the public and be seasonal or used for festival activities in nature."
Hanna began the public discussion by saying the ordinance isn't about mobile homes and the placement of them in the city. It is also not about Litman Campground, claiming it is not bound by the rules since it is permitted by the Corps of Engineers.
He said it is his job to protect life and safety, ensure proper maintenance, and fight urban blight.
"I don't think they're designed for permanent living quarters, rental properties," said Hanna. "They don't qualify for the minimum standards for living quarters."
"That needs to be told to the federal government, as far as not for living quarters," said Dave Hunt who sometimes rents out his camper as an overflow for customers at his wife's bed and breakfast. Hunt cited that the Federal Emergency Management Agency uses campers as living quarters in emergency situations, sometimes for long periods of time.
Hanna said FEMA trailers are now considered health hazards.
Fire Chief Larry Couch offered that campers burn very quickly and intensely, saying the standard setback of 10 feet is not sufficient to prevent further property damage.
Hanna further said he believes if the ordinance is not enacted, then there will be more people at council meetings wanting RV regulations.
"I most certainly wouldn't want to own a $150-200,000 home next to an empty lot where someone can put six motor homes there and rent them," said Hanna.
Aaron Cisar admitted he didn't want campers devaluing his property that is bordered on two sides by empty lots.
Tim Goddard suggested that the city make a rule that says use of campers for more long-term use needs to be approved. That would give neighbors a chance to protest such a development in their neighborhood.
"These people coming to our area-that's how they travel," he said, adding that he lived like that for years when he worked elsewhere.
Diana Cline Powell said she has a problem being told what she can do with her property; she has two empty lots in the flood plain that have limited use.
She said the ordinance is telling gas companies that they're not wanted in New Martinsville.
Councilman Steve Pallisco quickly took offense to that statement. "That has never been said here. We want this industry here. We're not going to let this community go to hell. I take insult to that."
Couch offered that she could build apartments. "The reason they're more expensive is that they're built to higher standards," he said.
A second reading must be passed for the ordinance to go into effect. It looks like the second reading will be held during the next regular council meeting on Dec. 5, 7:30 p.m. with a public department head meeting at 7 p.m. However, a special council meeting could be called with sufficient notice on the city building door prior to the regular meeting.