The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council reviewed and approved plans Tuesday, June 7 for the implementation of its ordinance regarding property owners who rent space during the season to temporary recreational vehicles (RVs).
Many town residents, particularly those on larger lots, rent space to RVs for the winter season, often to traveling equestrians or equestrian staff members, but also to others who RV south for the winter.
However, this has caused a problem when there are too many RVs on some properties, or when they are not provided with proper electric, water and septic hookups. Also, the town has been concerned that these temporary residents use the town’s solid waste collection service without paying for it.
An ordinance aimed at solving this issue was approved in 2020 with a fee schedule set in November 2021, which was too late to implement it for the past winter season.
The ordinance prohibits RVs on properties less than one acre. It allows one RV on properties of more than one acre but less than two acres, two RVs on properties between two and 10 acres, and no more than four RVs on properties of 10 acres or more. It also requires proper electric, water and septic hookups. The fee schedule set a $50 registration fee for each RV, plus a solid waste assessment fee. Permits will be granted that are valid for 179 days, at which point the RV or RVs must be removed.
At the meeting, the council reviewed the permit form and discussed ways to get property owners to comply with the new regulations.
One key concern was raised by Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia, who asked about the difference between RVs being stored by property owners and RV spaces being rented out to temporary visitors.
“The agricultural/residential district allows for outdoor storage of up to two commercial or recreational vehicles, as long as they are well-maintained and for the use of the property owner,” Town Attorney Elizabeth Lenihan said. “These are not regulated by the new ordinance, which is designed to allow temporary use of RVs for living and sleeping purposes.”
Maniglia, however, felt there was a conflict between the storage ordinance and the RV ordinance.
“We started this because folks in town were complaining that we were beginning to look like a trailer park,” she said. “Because most of us are two, five or 10 acres, it is not about the residents’ RVs. It is about the resident who takes advantage of the RV program.”
Maniglia said that it is impossible to monitor which RVs are personal RVs, and which are rentals, since property owners may say some RVs are for storage, but often they are in use during the season.
“If they have two RVs for storage and then bring in two RVs they are renting space to, that’s four RVs on a five-acre property, and that’s what we were trying to not do in this town,” she said.
Lenihan confirmed that her interpretation would be that the two RVs allowed on a five-acre parcel for living in would be in addition to the two RVs allowed for personal storage by the property owner.
During public comment, resident Cassie Suchy, who sat on the board that drafted the ordinance, said that RV storage was not the issue they were trying to solve.
“This was not geared toward the property owner or the property owner’s property,” she said. “We are not out to punish the property owner for using their own property. It is for people who rent or lease for the season.”
Town staff said that the only solution for the concern raised by Maniglia would be proper code enforcement to make sure that the RVs designated for storage are not in use as living quarters.
“You can have two RVs being in the AR district, but that does not allow you to rent them out,” Planning Consultant Jim Fleischmann said. “The ordinance was for rental of RV spaces where somebody would bring in an RV and rent a space on the property for no more than 180 days.”
The current goal is to set the process set up for applying for the permits, Mayor Robert Shorr said.
“Then we need education, to educate the people that next season, when you come, this is what you’re going to have to do,” he said. “That is what did not happen last year.”
Town Manager Jamie Titcomb agreed with Maniglia that improper use of stored RVs is an issue.
“You are correct,” he said. “Our code allows for that scenario — rent out two and have two personal ones. If those other two are also being rented out, then that is a property that is in violation. That should be a code-reported incident, so it can be followed up on by code enforcement and noticed.”
Maniglia asked that the forms be updated so that residents applying for the permit have to state how many RVs for personal storage they also have on the property and acknowledge that those RVs are not available for rental use.
Meanwhile, Vice Mayor Laura Danowski asked about different ways to help the town get compliance with the new regulations. She suggested getting a rebate back on the permit fee at the end of the season for those who comply with all the regulations.
Assistant Town Manager Francine Ramaglia said that it would be easier to set that up as a refundable deposit fee attached to the permits that is returned once the rental RV leaves for the season. That could be in the form of a reduced cost of the solid waste fee. For example, the town could collect the full solid waste fee of $425, and then give back half when the property owner has complied at the end of the season.
Lenihan said that some language will be added to the forms that differentiate between storage RVs and rental RVs, and Ramaglia added that details will be added to the application that require owners to note where both storage RVs and rental RVs will be located on the property.
“By having this program, we are trying to get people to comply,” Councilwoman Marianne Miles said. “We are always going to have rogue people.”
It was agreed that the changes could be made administratively, and the details did not need to return to the council again. The council provided the necessary direction to allow staff to implement the program.