East Bethel wrestles with camper decision

The East Bethel City Council stalled a decision at its April 2 meeting about how to handle a code violation related to recreational camping vehicles.

Due to a complaint late last year, the city investigated and then ticketed the owner of property at 18467 Lakeview Point Dr., where a recreational camping vehicle has been parked since 2003. The site is near the waters of Coon Lake and zoned, like others around it, as ‘vacant seasonal-recreational’ property.

The owner asked that the city allow the use, which triggered research into codes that apply to such vehicles. Council members said they found the issue tough to decide.

Recreational camping vehicles are allowed if the property also has a residence connected to functioning well and septic systems and if the vehicle is not occupied more than three weeks in any two-month period. Some older properties are protected by a grandfather clause, but lose the exemption if an owner has made improvements valued at $500 or more, which is the case with an outhouse on the subject property.

East Bethel could make changes to the law or interpret it broadly to allow the usage, but federal law forbids any permanent dwelling to sit lower than the 100-year-floodplain elevation.

Several Council members nodded yes as Mayor Bob DeRoche said he’s received calls about the issue.

A constituent had told Councilmember Tim Harrington that trailers belong in a designated park;  Harrington wondered what prompted the complaint when the camper has already been there for 11 years.

Everyone agreed the property is nicely kept, but many also worried that other people would not be as conscientious or might begin to store other things on their lots. Council members expressed concern that loosening restrictions on recreational campers might increase the risk of grey-water pollution in Moon Lake.

They considered a list of options that included limiting parking to certain months, or requiring that recreational camping vehicless move a minimum number of times per week or month.

Councilmember Ron Koller said leaving trailers there all year could be a problem, but said it seems bad to tell people they can’t do anything with the land they own.

DeRoche said the law must have been created for a reason, and City Administrator Jack Davis said it was probably to prevent the long-term or permanent parking of recreational camping vehicles.

Councilmember Heidi Moegerle suggested that a city representative call the property owner and try to work out some possibilities. Everyone agreed to delay the decision so there is time to have a discussion and to look up the floodplain-elevation number.