The Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission formally approved the long-standing Meadows RV park on Thursday, bringing the grandfathered property into compliance with county code. But the board balked at allowing expansion of the facility until it could get a clearer picture of the proposed 21-space addition.
The park, which predates county zoning codes, had been grandfathered in despite operating without a conditional-use permit allowing recreational vehicles.
Its age, though it’s the reason the park can continue operations, has become an issue, according to Thom Niederkofler, owner of Pacific Current Partnership, the San Francisco firm that owns both the RV and mobile-home courts south of Ketchum. Built in the 1970s, the spaces can’t accommodate modern rigs, which are becoming larger and more complex. So-called “park models,” which look like cabins built on running gear, are the next big thing, Niederkofler said, and The Meadows can’t fit them.
“The park had become a little rundown, and there was a vacancy problem,” he said. “We want to improve recreational opportunities in the valley … and we think that the RV park is a diamond in the rough.”
Approving the permit could spur investment, and bring in a fresh crop of tourists traveling in new-age RVs, consultant David Patrie of Benchmark Associates told the board on behalf of Pacific Current.
“In Blaine County code, it says that something labeled non-conforming is something we don’t want to perpetuate,” he said. “No one is going to put money into something like that.
“There’s growing demand for RVs nationwide, and that demand is evolving. We need to respond to it.”
The commissioners, though, expressed concerns that expanding for park models could be an end-around on rules regulating housing density. Though these new types look like mobile or manufactured homes, they are distinctly different in state code. While that allows them to be treated like vehicles under law, it also means they’re required to meet federal standards set out by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Blaine County Land Use Deputy Director Kathy Grotto told the Idaho Mountain Express.
“Recreational vehicles, including the park models, are not built to HUD standards,” Grotto said. “Hence, they are for temporary or seasonal use. Manufactured homes are built to HUD standards and are considered dwellings.”
State law, however, doesn’t define “temporary,” according to Blaine County Building Official Jeff Giese; it’s up to local jurisdictions to decide, and officials like Giese to monitor compliance.
The board asked to see more specific plans for the additional spaces before making a decision on them.
Niederkofler said he has no intention of sneaking permanent housing in under the guise of the RV park, though he did not say how long guests would be allowed to stay.
“The two uses conflict with one another,” he said. “If you have people permanently living in vehicles, that’s not what people on vacation want to be next to.
“I’m not looking for permanent housing here. I have a mobile-home park right next door. If you want to move in, come talk to me.”