The topic of RV parks — the need for more of them and how to regulate them — took up a considerable amount of time at the Brownwood City Council meeting Tuesday morning.
In the end, council members overrode concerns expressed by Mayor Stephen Haynes and approved two action items related to RV parks:
• After a public hearing, council members approved, on first reading, changes in regulations to "vacation travel trailer/RV parks" including site construction requirements, landscaping requirements and the permissible length of stay.
• Council members approved, on second and third/final readings, a zoning change that will allow developer, homebuilder and real estate broker Ross Setzler to build a 25-space RV park that will stretch along a portion of a bank of the Pecan Bayou just outside the entrance to Riverside Park.
Discussion of the two items became intertwined, and the consensus was that area RV parks are full because of the influx of temporary workers who are here for construction of the Bridge Tex Pipeline through the northern portion of Brown County.
One point of contention: whether, under the new regulations, RV park residents will be allowed to stay for a maximum of 90 days or 180 days. The Planning and Zoning Commission earlier agreed — although not unanimously — on the 180-day limit. Haynes wanted a 90-day limit, expressing concern that the longer limit will turn RV parks into mobile home parks.
Council members approved — on first reading — the longer 180-day limit.
City Manager Bobby Rountree began the discussion by saying the city started looking at the need to modify the RV park regulations for a couple of reasons:
• Setzler's earlier requested a zoning change that would allow him to construct an RV park near the entrance to Riverside Park.
In November, council members approved the zoning change on first reading, but delayed second and third/final readings until Tuesday. At the November council meeting, Haynes expressed concern about the long-term future of the area if Setzler sells it to someone who doesn't have Setzler's standards. Setzler agreed then that he would meet with city staff to discuss those concerns.
• Additionally, Rountree said, the city wanted to look at RV park regulations because of the possible impact on the parks due to increases in oil and gas production.
Along those lines, Haynes said it's necessary to protect the city in the event of a "sudden explosion of growth."
"We've already seen some of this with the construction of the (Bridge Tex Pipeline)," Haynes said.
Haynes expressed more of his concerns about Setzler's plans for an RV park near the entrance to Riverside Park. "My concern is, that it is adjacent to what is probably our nicest city park," Haynes said. "We have to make sure we don't damage it beyond repair.
" … My concern is that we'll change the character of the park." The mayor also said he's concerned that residents will avoid Riverside Park if it's "basically a campout."
Addressing the 90-day versus 180-day time limit, Haynes said an RV park needs to be for tourists and "not a mobile home park." The 180-day limit, Haynes said, means a park stops looking like an RV park and looks like a mobile home park.
It's "less problematic," Haynes said, if residents stay as tourists.
Setzler, Haynes said, is a great person and a great developer who has done much for the community. But Setzler might not own the RV park he wants to build forever and "what we do today is forever," Haynes said.
Setzler said he agrees with Haynes on the importance of keeping Riverside Park beautiful, but suggested a 180-day length of stay. It's important that people who stay in RV parks because they're here for a job be allowed to stay to the end of the job, Setzler said.
"I hate to make somebody who is here working, trying to make a living, pick up and leave before the job is complete," Setzler said.
Setzler said there aren't enough RV spaces here and "we have people having to go elsewhere."
David Bullion, owner of the Shady Oaks RV Park on U.S. Highway 377 South, said residents at his park have included nurses and doctors. The 90-day limit is too restrictive, Bullion said. If people passing through the area with RVs don't see an RV park "they'll keep going on down the road," Bullion said.
Council member Jerry DeHay said because fuel prices are high, "the tendency is for people to travel to a destination and stay for an extended time."
Council members went on to unanimously approve the new RV park regulations including the 180-day limit.
Other changes and additions in the new regulations include: excluding RV parks along major corridors in Brownwood; defining the minimum size of an RV park and minimum size of each space with a park; the minimum space between RVs; the construction material requirements for roads and pad sites; parking requirements; utility requirements; fire protection requirements; park supervision requirements; and inspections.