“This just sounds like bigger government to me and that’s why I don’t like it,” said a frustrated Philipp von Hanstein, chairman of Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) after a heated exchange with Commissioner Ben Riden over proposed changes to the county ordinance regulating recreational vehicles, specifically to give county officials more power to catch citizens suspected of living in RVs.
“This has become a serious issue,” said County Planning Director Chuck Jarrell, who said the county has discovered up to 30 incidents of people living in RVs full-time in the last year alone. “Under our codes, RVs are not permanent living structures, but it has been hard to enforce.”
Despite objections from Chairman von Hanstein and Commissioner Andy Ainslie, who both worried the new requirements would lead to unintended consequences and unnecessary inconveniences to recreational vehicle owners, the BOC narrowly passed stricter changes requested by Jarrell to crackdown on people living out of RVs in the county.
The vote was 3-to-1 with Commissioners Ben Riden, Donald Harris and Bill Kurtz voting in favor of the new recreation vehicle regulations, and Commissioner Andy Ainslie voting against them.
The new regulations aim to close an exploited loophole, according to county planners, that allowed people to reside in an RV temporarily, as long as it was not for more than 15 consecutive days within a 60-day period.
“This was just unenforceable,” said Jarrell. “Someone can just say they left for one night to get out of it.” The revised ordinance removes that stipulation entirely.
Under the newly-adopted regulations, recreational vehicle owners also must register with the county, free of charge, in order to utilize hunting camps in the county.
“What’s happening is these RV owners are living on hunting sites, paying the property owners for the hunting rights and then camping out there to live permanently,” explained Jarrell.
Both Ainslie and von Hanstein were adamantly against this portion of the new ordinance, arguing that it placed an undue burden on local citizens and out-of-town visitors who come to Morgan County to hunt and that the county did not have enough staff to actually enforce the new regulations.
“I think we have gone too far,” said Ainslie. “We are telling people in the county what they can and can’t do on their hunting land...we have to represent the people of our districts. I just don’t think people who have these vehicles and using them in the appropriate manner should be penalized by having to register with a government entity just so they can go hunting with a vehicle.”
Riden argued that requiring registration for recreational vehicles on hunting sites would be beneficial for everyone.
“All they have to do is register, it’s not asking them to pay...registration might be good. Because if one of them gets shot out there, you might know where they are and might can find them quicker,” said Riden.
“It just sounds like bigger government to me and that’s why I don’t like it,” said von Hanstein.
“I don’t see it as bigger government. I see it as protecting everyone’s ability to function,” Riden said.
Riden also criticized von Hanstein and Ainslie for not suggesting changes to the ordinance before the meeting.
“I am tired of talking about this,” said Riden. “We aren’t pushing this back again...do you think this gives you enough teeth to do what you need to do?” asked Riden of Jarrell. “Then I am ready to make a motion...all the commissioners had plenty of opportunity to make suggestions to fix the parts they don’t like. But you didn’t make suggestions and you didn’t make suggestions,” said Riden to Ainslie and von Hanstein. “Why are we beating this to death?”
Jarrell noted that the county is still allowing citizens in “emergency” situations to live in RVs temporarily, in the case of natural disasters or a fire destroying their permanent residence.
To read the new ordinance in full, visit: www.morgancountyga.gov.