Editor's note: This is the first story in a four-part series about RV use on the north end of the Peninsula. Part two in next week's issue will focus on current zoning ordinances and covenants regarding RV use.

PENINSULA - To RV or not RV: That is the question on the northern end of the Peninsula, anyway, and is a particularly appropriate question to ask in the areas of Surfside and Ocean Park.

As the number of permanent homes has grown in these two communities, so has the contention between homeowners and RVers. Just in 2000 and 2001, there have been approximately 47 new homes built in Surfside alone, with plans for another 17 in 2002. With the increased number of permanent homes, the contention between homeowners and RVers has continued to escalate.

Specifically, the issue is not about RV parks, but is in regard to RV use on private property, particularly in areas of Surfside and Ocean Park that area zoned R1, which includes the bulk of both communities. At the heart of the contention is whose rights should be protected: Those who are constructing and living in permanent homes versus those who bought their property, perhaps 20 years ago, solely for the purpose of using it for RV use.

But the issue is much more involved. Much of the contention focuses on the nuisance factor. Homeowners are concerned about property values being degraded by nearby lots which are used solely for seasonal RV use. Other homeowners are worried about loud parties, trash left on RVers' lots and improper waste water disposal. Still others have serious concerns about old RVs or "rusting hulks" left on lots year-round, thus encouraging vandalism and break-ins. One of the biggest sources of contention focus on just how long an RV can be parked on a lot, as well as the number of RVs parked on one lot.

These concerns and many others have cropped up this summer and fall at Pacific County Planning Commission meetings, as well as at Pacific County Department of Community Development hearings and zoning workshops. At a July 11 planning commission meeting in South Bend, one attendee, John Ebert, gave the Ocean Park RVer's point of view.

"When I look at what Ocean Park is today, it's a recreational area," said Ebert. "Ocean Park is not a Seattle; it's not a Portland; it's a place for recreation. I'm an RVer and I'm proud of it. I take care of my property. I heard a lot of talk at an Ocean Park meeting about getting rid of RVs and I object to that."

Ebert puts the shoe on the other foot in terms of who is annoying whom, switching the onus to homeowners. He said too many times RVers are accused of being a nuisance, but he said that homeowners can be the problem, at least in Ocean Park. He cited a number of houses where there have been loud parties or homeowners burning trash and plastic, thus fouling up the air for nearby RVers. He also cited a number of instances when people living in nearby homes have driven their four-wheel-drive vehicles onto his property.

"My point is, the RV issue is a hot topic in the Ocean Park area," said Ebert. "The issue to me isn't whether it's RVs or a homeowner, the issue to me is responsibility, behavior and its enforcement."

In Surfside there are approximately 2,700 lots within 20 neighborhood divisions. At this time, out of those 2,700 lots there are approximately 900 to 1,000 homes. This means that one-third of the community is developed and that a large part of the remaining community is comprised of people bringing RVs onto their lots for recreational use. In addition, the number of homes has increased steadily in the last few years. In 2000 and 2001 there were 47 new homes built in Surfside. For 2002 there are plans for another 17 new homes.

"It is pretty clear that we've got a clear division between RVrs and homeowners," said Surfside Homeowners Association President Ken Karch. "The large number of comments now I think are coming from homeowners. There has been a pretty quiet eight years, but here we have stirred something up by asking the question."

According to Pacific County Department of Community Development Director Brian Harrison, Surfside is where the RV issue, all came out of. He said that when the Surfside area, as well as Ocean Park, were only 10 to 20 percent developed, the amount of contention was minimal, but that as more people move to these communities and build homes, this is bound to change.

"There's going to be a transition point," said Harrison. "At some point when they get 50 or 75 percent developed with houses, there will be critical mass at which people there may say, 'It's time for us to be a neighborhood and not a campground.' But I don't sense that we are there yet."

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