BELMONT-A special meeting held by Belmont Village Council Thursday night gave residents and landlords a concrete answer to the controversial topic of the last six weeks: campers and recreational vehicles will not be permitted for use as living spaces within the village limits, per Ordinance #2002.24.
A room full of residents, landlords and tenants gathered to speak about the issue and hear the council's decision on the matter.
"I understand about progress," began Donny Williams, long-time resident. "I don't have a problem with what's here now, but I don't think the town can handle campers in every vacant lot. We have to have faith in council. We have to have courage to back the laws."
Grant Williams, standing at right, expresses his concerns as a Belmont resident about an influx of campsites on vacant lots within the town. Belmont Village Council held a special meeting Thursday night, deciding to uphold an ordinance from 2002.
Belmont Village Council Special Meeting
Kenny Davis, president of the town's water board, expressed his concern about people losing grasp of the "real issue," which is compliance with the 10-year old ordinance. "This started [in 2002] with a small camper and a garden hose," said Davis. "The town decided they didn't want that happening again. It was a matter of sanitary conditions and property values."
Key verbiage in the ordinance reads: "No dwelling unit shall be maintained and no business shall be conducted within any camper or recreational vehicle while such vehicle is parked within the Village" and "all campers and recreational vehicles stored within the Village shall be owned by the owner or occupant of the property and shall be actively used for recreational purposes by the owner or occupant of the premises outside the Village."
Landlords pointed to economic reasons for allowing the sites. "We're faced with major decisions in this town with budget cuts, police service cuts," stated one landowner. "This [having the campsites] is temporary. If we can just get through knowing it's temporary. I have 125 years of history in this town. I love this town."
Another landowner who is in the process of developing his property into sites added, "We're trying to strive to make this as pleasant as possible. We're spending money and making improvements. This won't be bad. People don't have anything to worry about."
He did comment on townspeople's reception to the new residents, however.
"I used to go out of town for work, and I wasn't treated the way these people are being treated."
One of the tenants spoke to that issue, a sudden "us versus them" attitude. She said that since her family arrived they have "faced prejudice" throughout the town. "I volunteer; I've had a background check. We're not trying to upset your small town. I'm from a small town. My children miss their home, and we thought this would be a good place for them. My husband works 4:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. I'm just saying think about treating others the way you want to be treated."
Town residents cited worries over property values, an increase in noise, decrease in privacy and landlords who don't live in town. "This has been very upsetting," stated one long-time resident.
During an executive session, council members, Mayor Richard Thompson and Village Solicitor Lindsay Tomlan mulled over research they conducted on RV parks, recreational vehicles and campers and weighed public input and concerns.
Mayor Thompson made the announcement when the meeting resumed. "Council has voted to let the Ordinance stand as it is. There will be no more campers allowed in the town. Those who are in campers now will have six months as of October 1st to make other living arrangements."
One of the landlords attending asked council for a variance for his site project, but members declined to proceed with that request.
According to Councilman Dan Shreve the decision was unanimous. "It's the Ordinance. We have to go with what it says plus go with what the majority of the people in this town want. We have nothing against the land owners or the tenants. It's about the law and what the people want."
Valenti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.