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Pitch a tent or the new camping ordinance?

By Debra Moore

[email protected]

It might be back to the drawing board for Planning Director Tracey Ferguson and the Planning Commission following more discussion May 9 on the proposed camping ordinance. The ordinance was originally  brought before the Board of Supervisors on April 18 to address inconsistencies between the county’s general plan and its codes with regard to camping. The intent was to address nuisance camping in residential areas.

“This is really aimed at excessive camping stays impacting on close neighbors,” District 3 Supervisor Tom McGowan had said during the May 2 meeting. “In most of our communities there are individuals who have been taking advantage of the situation.”

Under the ordinance, camping would be prohibited within Prime Opportunity Areas, which includes single and multi-family residential zones, some commercial areas and some open space and lake areas. Camping would be permitted on all private lands not within the Prime Opportunity Area, if all county health regulations are met. Stays can’t extend beyond 120 days in a calendar year, and tents and recreational vehicles are limited based on the number of structures that already exist on the property.

However, during the board’s May 2 meeting when the ordinance was scheduled to be adopted, opposition arose. District 4 Supervisor Greg Hagwood worried about the impact the ordinance would have on camping associated with the High Sierra Music Festival, and private homeowners said it would preclude them from having campouts in their own yards.

The board extended the public hearing until May 9 so that there could be some clarification regarding those two concerns. It had been hoped that a meeting could be held with High Sierra Music Fest representatives, but due to illness, that didn’t occur. However, Planning Director Ferguson said that she researched the issue and the High Sierra Music Fest would not be impacted by the ordinance.

Board Chairman Dwight Ceresola opened the public hearing once again, and Tina Marie Love, who spoke during the May 2 meeting, did so again. She said that the ordinance is “enforcement heavy” and would preclude people from staying in a treehouse, a tent or an RV on their own property. “It impacts so many people,” she said, and wondered why residents weren’t notified in a better manner. She suggested that passively posting a notice wasn’t enough.

“This (the ordinance) needs to be rewritten for the benefit of the collective community and still give the county the power to deal with the issue they are trying to deal with,” she said.

District 4 Supervisor Greg Hagwood thanked Planning Director Ferguson and the planning commission for trying to “provide a remedy for a problem that has been in place for quite some time.” He requested that the public hearing be continued so that the issues could be discussed.

Supervisor McGowan reiterated  that the intent of the ordinance is to address long-term abuse, not short-term camping. However, the current ordinance as written prohibits all camping in town.

The board continued the public hearing until June 6 — the date when all five board members are expected to be present. (When this item came up for discussion during the public hearing May 9, just three board members were present – Hagwood, McGowan and Ceresola. Jeff Engel missed the entire meeting due to medical issues, and Kevin Goss had to leave at noon for travel.)

Though the item will be discussed again June 6, it will most likely need to go back through the planning commission process. Planning Director Ferguson said that any substantive changes would require the ordinance to be rewritten. Supervisors Hagwood and McGowan said they knew it could slow down the process, but they would rather get it right.

3 thoughts on “Pitch a tent or the new camping ordinance?

  • We have a county that can’t even do an audit yet it’s trying to regulate “camping” because a few people in Quincy are complaining about their neighbors.

    How about we just let the neighbors resolve it as a civil matter between then instead of trying to regulate everyone?

    Why is it that we are even discussing this when we have employees leaving because they aren’t getting paid enough and we can’t even keep the roads from falling apart?

    If people want such regulation, let them live in an area where they have a homeowner association!


  • I may be a little simplistic, aren’t there ordinances currently in place that may be applied. Noise, disturbance, parking, littering, etc?

  • Sanitation hasn’t been discussed, and city water and sewer services are generally sized to accommodate the expected family. Extra people camping on a property can add to and sometimes overwhelm services like a sewer line, especially if there are root obstructions.

    But my concern, come to think of it, is being allowed to pitch a Yurt in my back yard after my house is burned in a wild fire. I’ll still have intact water and sewer so camping on my own property is a simple solution while waiting for a home to be rebuilt. It sounds like such an ordinance would preclude that opportunity.

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