The City of Charlotte recently adopted new rules for recreational vehicle parking that are intended to give property owners more options than before. Up until these changes, RVs were very broadly defined, and limited to legal parking only in the rear yard. The new rules provide for a greater range of legal parking options that include side yards and driveways, subject to certain restrictions.

The new rules take effect at the end of October, and also include changes to city regulations on temporary sheds and carports, and eliminate outdated rules about satellite dishes.

“All of these things were regulated in the same section of the zoning ordinance,” Community Development Director Bryan Myrkle said. “Once we had this section of the ordinance open for revision, we could take a look at it all.”

Recreational Vehicles

City residents have had very few legal options for parking recreational vehicles on their own property. Much of local code enforcement takes place on a complaint basis, so some residents were able to park in their yard or driveway without any trouble, while others were liable to get cited.

“If you have a problem with your neighbor, it’s common for them to try to get you in trouble on an unrelated issue, and honestly, that’s not a very good basis for code enforcement,” Myrkle said.

It was also the case that someone with a camper was much more likely to be the subject of a complaint than someone with Jet Skis or snowmobiles.

“They are all violations of the same ordinance, however,” he said.

“It’s been common to get a complaint about the way someone was parking their RV, but have no legal alternative to offer the person, except to pay for off-site storage,” Myrkle said. “Most residents don’t want heavy-handed enforcement, so it helps to have more options available.”

Under the new rules, RVs can be parked anywhere that an accessory structure can be built, provided that it’s on an improved surface of gravel, asphalt or concrete. A set-back distance of 5-feet from the property line will be required in the rear yard, and required side yard setbacks (which can vary, depending on property size and location), will still be in effect.

They can also be parked in a driveway, or on an improved surface adjacent to a driveway, provided they are at least 15 feet from the front property line.

“This is the biggest and most important change,” Myrkle said. “We have to maintain some sight-lines and corner clearance standards for the safety of motorists and pedestrians, but allowing basic driveway parking will be a major benefit to many, many residents.”

The new rules also allow visitors to stay in a recreation vehicle on residential property for up to 72 hours, rather than the old limit of 24 hours.

One change that is not included in the update, and which was never considered, is front yard parking. Personal vehicles offered for sale for a limited time remain the only thing that can be parked in a front yard.

In a related change, the City has also increased the height limit on accessory structures in a residential area to 18 feet, to allow for structures that can house an RV.

“There have been instances where we have cited residents for parking in their driveway, but also turned down their plans for a building to park in,” Myrkle said. “That is obviously frustrating for people.”

Myrkle said he has talked to a few residents who are concerned the new rules will not let them park their RV where they have been parking it up until now. He said that may be true, but if so, those residents were also in violation of the old rules and just didn’t realize it.

“One thing this process has done is highlight the existence of these rules that many people apparently didn’t know we had,” he said.

The storage conditions for smaller recreational vehicles, like boats, snowmobiles and personal watercraft are also addressed in the new rules. Trailered boats must have a suitable cover, while canoes, kayaks and row boats must be stored in a way that does not collect and retain water. Similarly, jet skis and snowmobiles must be suitably covered.

“The point is to allow people to have these vehicles and enjoy the kind of outdoor recreation we all love in Michigan, but without accumulating a lot of inoperable junk,” Myrkle said.

Another important change is still in the works – removing utility trailers from the definition of recreational vehicles.

“So many people have purchased these very small, affordable utility trailers, that trying to regulate them doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Myrkle said. “If we are going to have rules about RVs, we think they should apply to the kinds of vehicles that most people think of when they hear the term RV.”

That definition is in a separate part of the zoning ordinance and will require a separate action of the City Council.

Temporary Sheds and Carports

Temporary sheds and carports were previously not allowed, except by special permission of the Zoning Board of Appeals, which no one has been granted, but Myrkle said they are now so affordable that they are cropping-up everywhere in town. These sheds, many of which are lightweight, tent-style construction, now will be subject to the same rules as regular sheds and accessory structures, in terms of size, location and permitting. They will also have to be securely fastened to the ground, and removed or replaced after two years.

“We have had instances of them blowing away and ending up in other people’s yards if they aren’t properly secured,” Myrkle said. “We also have a few that are completely in tatters, no longer protecting anything, but they haven’t been removed.”

Homeowners who have an existing temporary shed will be ‘grandfathered,’ in the sense that the two-year time limit will not be retroactively applied, nor will they be required to obtain a permit. However, the city will make an attempt to notify them of the new rules and time limit.

Satellite Dishes

The city’s ordinance regulating satellite dishes dates back to the 1980s when very large, private satellite dishes began to get popular, and the rules have remained on the books until now.

“The dishes this section was aimed at regulating are no longer used by anyone at their residence,” Myrkle said. “The City Council removed this section entirely, and that is appropriate for rules aimed at regulating technologies no longer in use.” Myrkle pointed-out that the old language technically could be applied to modern, small satellite dishes, too, “so it’s better to just get it out of there.”

Article submitted by the City of Charlotte.