Ocean Shores council debates “sunsetting” camping on lots


Undeveloped lots were first sold by Ocean Shores Estates 50 years ago. Even after the incorporation of Ocean Shores in 1970, property owners were allowed to camp in recreational vehicles on their lots.

Limits on the number of days that owners can camp on their RV lots have changed over the years, going from 30 to 60 to 90.

Now, with Ocean Shores a half-century old and the city only one-third developed, city leaders are considering phasing out RV camping. The notion has come as a shock to the lot owners who have been hoping the city council would approve more camping days.

Yet at the March 26 Ocean Shores City Council “study session,” councilors not only discussed a planning commission-recommended extension of RV camping days, they also unexpectedly brought up the idea of ending RV camping in the city.

On the agenda was “90-day camping  in  residential  zones.” The agenda had a link titled “recommendations.” It contained three planning commission recommendations — a “majority report” representing three councilors, and two “minority reports” from one commissioner each. Two reports recommended extending camping days; one recommended “no changes.”

None of the recommendations suggested ending camping.

For the study session, councilor Randy Scott led discussion on two proposals he had drafted. Both would “sunset” camping in Ocean Shores.

“The discussion at the study session amongst the members of the council was that we try two different sunsets … one for undeveloped lots and one for developed lots,” Scott later said, via email. “So, this draft does anticipate that.”

PROPOSED CHANGES

Scott emailed a copy of a draft he had written, adding to and changing parts of the existing ordinance regulating RV camping. His draft includes the following:

“The camping that is authorized by this ordinance shall sunset the authorizations for camping in the following manner:

“In the case of non-developed lots camping for the periods that this ordinance (OSO – 15.12.010 and 15.12.020) authorizes will cease to be in effect as of December 31, 2017; and

“In the case of developed lots camping for the periods that this ordinance (OSO – 15.12.010 and 15.12.020) authorizes will cease to be in effect as of December 31, 2027.”

“The intent is for this version to be on the agenda for the April 9 (city council) meeting as an introduction and direct that it is  to be forwarded to the Mayor and turned into a formal Draft Ordinance to be resubmitted to the Council for first reading,” Scott commented.

“Yes, there will be public comment allowed in the presentation of the draft on April 9.”

He was referring to the April 9 city council meeting, to be held at 6 p.m. at the Convention Center.

At the March 26 study session, several councilors discussed the “sunset” idea regarding camping.

“I like the idea of looking at a sunset clause,” said Dan Overton. He added there might be “grandfather” language to those who have already purchased lots.

“If there’s certain portions of the city that don’t want camping … that should be up to the planning commission,” said Ed Engel.

“As far as sunsetting, I don’t believe in sunsetting anything,” he said.

Later, Engel said, “If you study the history of Ocean Shores you’ll find out camping has been here ever since it was built. So it’s not going to be an easy thing to get rid of.

“Yes I do believe there should be a sunset clause. I’m all in favor of that. But I believe sunsetting should be done on density …”

He later added he would not support a sunset that was less than 15 years away.

Ginny Hill said she had received many emails from full-time residents. “No one says we should stop camping, they are just saying we shouldn’t extend it,” she said.

As far as the sunset idea, Hill said, “I’m not sure five years is long enough. I’d be looking for 10 to 15 years.”

MORE CAMPING DAYS?

As far as the days of camping allotted, which was expected to be the purpose of the study session, Scott said his draft “define(s) a little more specifically what can be 72-hour exceptions to the 90-day permit and as drafted allows for up to 24 additional days beyond the 90 days. 

“This is close to the majority opinion of the planning commission recommendation.”

At the study session, Scott said, “It’s important for use to be responsive to that portion of the community that does camp …

“I know I’ve said in the past campers don’t vote so I don’t care what they think,” Scott added. “But I’m a human being, and I do care what they think.

 “I think that we’ve spent a lot of time on this and as far as I’m concerned, it’s time to move forward with a proposal,” Scott concluded, at the study session.

The other five councilors who attended seemed to agree.