2018-10-11 / Community

Business owner continues push for RV park

By Ben Muir

Dave Clarkson addresses the Port Austin Village Council at a meeting on Monday. 
Photo by Ben Muir Dave Clarkson addresses the Port Austin Village Council at a meeting on Monday. Photo by Ben Muir PORT AUSTIN – Dave Clarkson was told zoning laws don’t allow an RV park in Port Austin, but that hasn’t stopped him.

Clarkson was at the Monday village council meeting lobbying the board to allow him to have an RV park. The exchanges were sometimes contentious and the board responded at length to Clarkson’s concerns.

Back in August, Clarkson requested a variance to allow him to turn his 4.7- acre mobile home park, Port Austin Estates, into an RV park. Zoning laws state an RV park must be 10 acres, so the request was denied - the variance was too significant, according to council.

At Monday’s meeting, Clarkson said he’s had RVs in the park for the last three years. He then passed out copies of an ostensible check worth $75 he wrote to the village in 2014, which payed for a sign to put up at the park that said RVs are welcome. The council members did not dispute the validity of the check.

Clarkson said it wasn’t until 2017 that the state notified him that RVs weren’t allowed in the park; he then requested a variance at the local level, in August, and was denied, which came in part due to surrounding neighbors opposing it. Most cited noise from vacationers and that it would disturb full-time residents who work every day and cause locals to act as ‘police officers’ if visitors trespass.

“If I can bring RVs back,” Clarkson said, “those people spend money in the community. They go to the bars and restaurants. They go to the gas station. I mean, people who are driving 75,000-dollar RVs are not renegades, but the people that live in 500-dollar trailer houses, they can be a little edgy.”

He then asked whether the council could tell him why 10 acres is the requirement for an RV park. At this, council member Dianne Maschke referenced the fact he has 4.7, but she wasn’t sure who made the 10-acre regulation.

Clarkson responded by saying 10 RVs could fit on one acre of land.

“So, if you had 10 acres, you’d be talking 100 RVs,” Clarkson said. “Sound good?”

Rory Andreski, another council member, said “yep – bring them on.”

Maschke then said: “I mean, not ‘bring them on’.”

President Dan Confer then said that the council would have violated its own bylaws had it approved Clarkson’s request for a variance.

“From what I hear from the rest of the council,” Confer said, “I think we understand that you do a good job with your operation.”

Confer then said he wasn’t sure whether the planning commission has considered re-writing the zoning laws.

Clarkson: “I talked to the folks at the [planning commission], and Mr. Andreski told me ‘not likely’.”

An exchange then ensued that led Confer to say the council was going beyond the scope of public comment.

Andreski: “I believe we said we would look into it.”

Clarkson: “No, you said, ‘not likely’.”

Andreski: “Don’t put words in my mouth.”

Council member T.J. Polega, interjected:

“Isn’t this public comment?”

The exchange stopped, and Clarkson went on to say that an RV park would be good for the community – that there’s no downside, and it’s not like he wants to “open up a porn store.” He also commented on the August meeting and the more than dozen people who opposed the RV park.

“I really got blind-sided at that meeting,” Clarkson said. “I didn’t know what I was walking into at all. I think if I sat down and I talked to the people that are surrounding the park – I think once I explain exactly what I want to do – I got a feeling a few of them would say, ‘You know what? That doesn’t sound all that bad’.”

Comments were noted to be running well beyond the usual allotted time for public comment.

“We’ve allowed you to comment,” Confer said. “And there’s no action that this council can take at this time to remedy it for you.”

Going forward, Maschke recommended Clarkson draw-up a plan to present to the zoning board of appeals.

“Do you think I would get any support there, Rory?” Clarkson asked Andreski, who sits on that board.

“Like Dianne [Maschke] said,” Andreski responded, “put together a proposal for why we should have less than 10 acres for an RV park. And make it a good, thorough presentation, and we’ll see what happens.”

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