Clark County has adopted a series of parking restrictions aimed at reducing the number of recreational vehicles used as living spaces on public roads.
The Clark County Council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday that limits and regulates how long RVs can be parked on county roads. Restrictions take effect March 20.
The county code currently allows vehicles, trailers and equipment to be parked on a county road for as long as three days. Recently, councilors have noted that they’ve heard from residents about an increase in the number of RVs that either have been abandoned or occupied by people who are not visitors of nearby residents.
“This has been an ongoing, long conversation, and I know that the folks in the neighborhoods have had some real struggles over the past number of months,” said Councilor Julie Olson, whose district covers Hazel Dell, Salmon Creek, Ridgefield, La Center and Woodland.
Under the new ordinance, automobiles will be able to park on county roads for up to 24 hours without a permit, but RVs will require a permit.
Residents of any property adjacent to where the RV will be parked must obtain a seven-day permit from the county Code Administration Department. The $10 permit can be renewed for an additional seven days.
“The idea here being that this is for people that are visiting, that maybe have friends or family that are coming to visit and are going to stay in an RV for the duration of their visit,” said Lindsey Shafar, the county’s policy analyst.
Living in an RV for an extended period on public streets will not be allowed. The RV must be parked in a legal location; waste and sewage must be properly disposed of; and generators, electrical extension cords, hookups, awnings and furniture outside the RV are prohibited. Vehicles will not be allowed to repark on the same curb of the same block.
“We need to put something in place for the health and safety of our public roadways, and people have a right in their neighborhoods not to have transient people coming and living and creating a mess, increasing the threat to public safety,” Councilor Gary Medvigy said. “This is a very complicated issue, and then it gets to the issue of homelessness. Where do they go?”
Medvigy said that one of the RVs that has been the subject of a complaint was occupied by a mother and her child.
“So, I’m hoping to test the system in that regard and see if our Council for the Homeless and some of our nonprofits can react to that and ensure that this person has a home — or at least a ways toward a home — so we’re just not moving people around as the RV parks get crowded or people get pushed out of the RV parks,” Medvigy said. “We need to get a good handle on those that are homeless.”
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office will enforce the ordinance. Those who violate the conditions may be fined, a vehicle may be impounded and the sheriff’s office or Code Administration staff may revoke the permit. A first offense will be subject to a $50 fine, followed by $100 for a second violation and $250 for any further infractions.
Carol Levanen, of property rights group Clark County Citizens United and a regular commenter at council meetings, was the only participant in public comment during Tuesday’s hearing.
“I’m seeing this to be highly regulatory, and I’m seeing it’s going to harm families who are just, simply, trying to make ends meet and make sure that their families are being taken care of,” Levanen said.
Several councilors said that, despite appearing overly regulatory, the ordinance is necessary.
“I would say that we have definite reason for doing this,” Council Chair Eileen Quiring said. “It is a housing issue, but it also is, I think, something we need to regulate.”
Before approving the ordinance, councilors passed two amendments. One will give anyone who is the subject of a complaint 24 hours to load or unload a vehicle. The other amendment calls for fewer regulatory steps to certify one’s residence.
Quiring added that she hopes the council will be open to changing the ordinance to resolve “any unintended consequences.”
“It isn’t our intention to create huge hurdles for our constituents who have RVs,” Quiring said. “The intention is to help clean up some of these neighborhoods.”
The ordinance marks an early step as the council formulates a larger homelessness strategy. Earlier this year, councilors discussed a draft policy on removing property from homeless camps.
“We’re having conversations with the (Vancouver) Housing Authority, with other folks in the community about the options we have, so this is not a process we’re taking without compassion,” Olson said.