By Connie Leinbach
The Ocracoke Planning Advisory Board on Thursday (Oct.9) again unanimously voted to eliminate the travel trailer amendment to the Ocracoke Development Ordinance (ODO) saying federal regulations on travel trailers are already in place.
Drafted in 2012, the amendment regulates the seasonal and permanent living in campers, requiring them to have proper hook-ups to utilities and to be road-ready in case of evacuation.
But the biggest bone of contention among the current board members is the 5,000-square-foot lot requirement for a second camper on a property-owner’s land.
The board had voted to delete this amendment at their Sept. 11 meeting, but took up the question again at their most recent meeting.
“You’re telling a property owner what they can do on their own property,” said Butch Bryan about the restriction. “I don’t agree that one guy can put up a duplex (on 5,000 square feet) but not two trailers. It’s excessive control of property owners’ rights. There’s no affordable housing on Ocracoke and travel trailers are it.”
This action was part of a review of the entire ODO the board is undergoing, but the camper ordinance has been a controversial issue on Ocracoke for the last two years.
John Fletcher, the Hyde County commissioner who represents Ocracoke and who attended the meeting, was happy about the action and said he would put it on the commissioners’ Nov. 3 agenda for approval.
A public hearing is required prior to the commissioners’ vote. Meetings begin at 6 p.m. and islanders can watch/participate in the Ocracoke School Commons room via internet hook-up.
“I ran on (doing away with this ordinance),” Fletcher said after the meeting. “I wanted to allow two trailers on a 5,000 square-foot lot. Any time you can do away with another regulation, it’s good for the citizens.”
In their prior discussions, the board discovered that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the state and county have regulations on living in campers and travel trailers.
“The federal rules trump everything,” said Corky Pentz, planning board chair. “Regulations are already in three places.”
And if your house is close to the water, then there are the Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) rules, Pentz added.
“Putting a camper on your property is not a cake walk,” he said.
However, both Pentz and Bryan said they could revisit some of the points in the camper amendment before their review is completed.
Only a few residents attended the meeting.
Sean Death, manager of the Beachcomber Campground and gas station, noted that Hugh Watson, Hyde County health officer, had previously said that as for septic, one camper equals one bedroom.
Jerry Hardison, Hyde County building inspector, who also attended the meeting, added that other rules still apply, such as the 50 percent maximum coverage per lot; one parking space per bedroom and the requirement of 16 feet between structures.
Pentz said that in addition to the FEMA rules that govern housing in a flood zone, campers need to abide by the county building code: have a permit; have an electric panel and proper water and sewer hook-ups.
When the board finishes its review of the ODO, it will be sent to the NC School of Government for rewriting into a legal document.
“If they wanted to control density they would have made the lot size 10,000 square feet,” Bryan said about the trailer amendment to the ODO.
The planning advisory board in effect makes recommendations to the commissioners who can act on the recommendations.