Malheur County Courthouse

VALE — There was little support for an ordinance proposed by county officials to clarify regulations on occupancy of recreational vehicles around the county during a public hearing before the Malheur County Court on Wednesday.

Giving the staff report, County Counsel Stephanie Williams said the new ordinance was the work of her office, the Environmental Department, the Planning Department and the Sheriff’s Office.

It was designed to clarify what has been past practices but adding such things as limits on how long an RV can be temporarily occupied for when a person is building a house or used as a guest house, for up to 14 days in a 30-day period, or other circumstances.

‘It is a starting point,” Williams said of the ordinance, and would just affect areas in the county not in urban growth boundaries.

Some of the people who appeared to testify against the ordinance were told it would not affect them because the RV’s they are using are inside the city limits of Vale and inside its urban growth boundaries.

Speaking in support of the ordinance were Bonnie and Larry Stuart, of Ontario, who complained of people parking their RVs on the lot next to them and living in them without proper sanitation systems, water, electricity or hookups — but lots of trash.

“I would declare an emergency,” said Bonnie Stuart, referring to a discussion of whether there was an emergency to put into effect immediately if it passed. Without the emergency clause, which is commonly used, the ordinance would become law in 90 days.

Stuart said she estimates a large number of people living in the lot next door, adding that the situation was driving down property values.

Williams said she had taken a phone call from Nancy Haidle, who she said was concerned about whether people could live in RVs on their own property, and who was concerned about Bureau of Land Management firefighters and contractors who might need the use of RV’s through much of the summer that might have trouble finding other housing with the shortage there is in the county.

Those comments were echoed by Kevin Curfman, in a submitted statement, who operates a wildland firefighting business. He said he had to find housing this year and friends are allowing him to park his fifth-wheel on their property.

“It is a modern, fully self-contained RV and wastewater is properly disposed of at a local RV dump station as needed. I also know of other people who come into the area for firefighting who also use RV’s for temporary housing for the time between fire dispatches,” his statement reads.

In his view that the ordinance would make the housing shortage more difficult and would restrict people from living in their RVs on private property even when all the rules are being complied with, Curfman wrote, a comment that was made by several at the hearing.

Sheryl Childs, said in her submitted statement, after her family sold their house to seek a better location of travel for jobs, they were unable to find a house they could afford to buy or rent a place the family fit in.

“The cost of staying in our trailer was better than the cost of renting … And our trailer was in better condition than some of the homes that we looked at buying within our prices range.”

Also, the family’s trailer was hooked up directly with septic and water, Childs said.

A second hearing will be held at 11 a.m. June 26.

Having looked for a home for about a year, Childs said the timeline of 14 days in a 30-day period seemed a very short time considering the length of time needed to close on a home or to build one.

“I also think that is should be on a case-to-case basis when dealing with families that feel they have no choice to live in RV’s” Childs wrote.

County officials, including County Planner Erik Evans, said it is not their intention to throw anybody off their property and there is flexibility in the county code to allow for such things as hardship situations.

Commissioner Larry Wilson said having timelines in the ordinance gives it more teeth when trying to evict squatters.

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