The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council adopted a pilot program last week that will allow temporary recreational vehicles on residential properties of a minimum size.
The pilot program will be in effect through no later than May 1, 2018, in order to potentially add uses to the Unified Land Development Code regulations to allow temporary recreational vehicle uses within the town, and also sets up a zoning-in-progress policy that will restrict the program to certain properties.
The council has had significant problems with unauthorized RV trailers squatting on residentially zoned property during the winter season that negatively affect the resources of the town, according to a staff report that accompanied the Aug. 1 agenda item.
The proposal allows the town manager to set up a pilot program that will set criteria allowing some properties to be authorized to host up to four RVs.
The program’s genesis dates back to September 2015, when Town Manager Bill Underwood created a focus group of citizens to vet ideas for managing the influx of RVs during the winter equestrian season.
Vice Mayor Ron Jarriel said he wished the resolution had gone through the town’s Planning & Zoning Board, but the upcoming equestrian season would have been well underway by the time it got to the council.
“We’ve had this problem for years,” Jarriel said. “We need to experiment with some type of procedure that may solve it.”
Jarriel said the RV tenants must have some method of proper waste disposal.
“I’ve seen a lot of them where a guy comes by on a weekly basis and does that,” he said. “We’ve had people in the past who like to just run it out on the ground and into a ditch and into the canals.”
Jarriel added that he would like the town to gain some revenue from the project.
“Keep in mind this is a trial basis,” he said. “If this works, we’ll probably keep it in force. If it doesn’t work, then we’re going to terminate it. I guess the only other route we would have is code enforcement, but the problem with code enforcement is because it’s seasonal, by the time we file a code enforcement complaint, we can’t follow through with it because the season is over and they’re gone. We have to try something because we haven’t done anything with it in the past. I say we go with it.”
During public comment, resident Valerie Solas objected to the program, saying that it eventually would be open to everybody.
“You can’t say to anyone that they can’t have a trailer park on their property,” Solas said. “It’s going to change the demographics of the community. It’s going to [affect] their property values. If these people are so wealthy, and they can buy and sell our town, then they can buy a proper house, build a proper house and house their staff there.”
Resident Bob Solas was concerned that the resolution would allow more dilapidated RVs rather than the expensive motor homes portrayed by advocates of the program, as well as people without ties or allegiance to the community. He added that requiring proper hookups would not address the wear and tear on town roads.
Resident Joyce Batchelor also opposed the program, pointing out that the town charter does not provide for RVs, and that many of the properties with RVs, presumably for grooms’ quarters, do not have horses on the property.
Resident Phillis Maniglia, a Realtor, said she has sold several properties in Loxahatchee Groves where she had to clean the property of trash, junk tires and equipment so it could be sold.
“They’re paying almost [$100,000] an acre now,” she said. “These folks are coming in and building beautiful horse farms, cleaning up our town.”
She said her clients have abided by septic, water and electric requirements.
“We need to do regulation, we need to do permits and inspections, and the town should get paid for that,” Maniglia said. “The cost will be passed on to whoever is going to rent those trailers, but it is bringing the land values up. If you’re looking to retire, you’re going to get a nice return on your investment… and the town is not going to get trashed by these folks.”
Resident Doreen Baxter said she served on the committee that helped formulate the pilot program.
“I am not an equestrian,” Baxter said. “I have a beautiful 5-acre property with only a couple of dogs, but in listening to this, I was intrigued by the fact that we would do a test study. This would not be something that we would pass with our blinders on. We are planning on doing it very carefully.”
She noted the protections put in place.
“We had put lots of limitations on permitting the trailers, the water connections, the electrical, the pads so there is no leakage or ground damage,” Baxter continued. “It seemed that we put so many things into place, also a fee so that would be revenue for the town.”
She said one of her criteria was that such uses be screened from neighbors, and that there be lighting and noise restrictions.
“I think it’s worth a test,” Baxter said. “We have a year to test it.”
Jarriel asked about the proposed rules that one RV be permitted on lots of 1.5 to 5 acres, and no more than four on lots 5 acres or larger. Underwood said the rule for 1.5 to 5 acres was a consensus of the focus group, and no more than four on 5-acre properties or larger was following state statutes.
Mayor Dave Browning was concerned that RV parking was never allowed before.
“We have to be very careful what comes in,” Browning said. “In the past, as you know, up on C Road, somebody decided to make his 5 acres into an RV park… If you didn’t allow the trailers, it won’t kill the equestrians. They’re still going to thrive. They thrive in Wellington, and they’re not allowed to put the RVs over there. That’s why the pressure is over here.”
Councilman Todd McLendon made a motion to approve the pilot program, which carried 4-0 with Councilman Ryan Liang absent.