Iron County Commission eases certain occupancy restrictions for RV owners on their own property

A recreational vehicle, shown for illustrative purposes, Iron County, Utah, March 11, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — The Iron County Commission recently voted to ease certain restrictions involving the location of recreational vehicles, particularly in situations where the RV’s occupants are staying on their own property.

After some discussion, the commission voted unanimously in February to amend Iron County Code section 17-36-230. County planner Reed Erickson and the members of the Planning Commission had worked out the details of the changes over the past few months.

“What this ordinance does is it allows for people who own a lot or a parcel to go on the property with their camper or their RV and stay for up to 16 days without any permit, camping just like they would on BLM or Forest Service land,” Erickson explained afterward. “They can go there and stay for up to 16 days on their property, which wasn’t previously allowed in the ordinance.”

Additionally, Erickson said the changes also allow landowners on Cedar Mountain or in other undeveloped and unincorporated areas of the county to locate their RVs on their own property and stay in them on a seasonal basis for up to 180 days each year. 

Such residents would still be expected to comply with health department guidelines regarding water and sewage, although hauling in water and hauling out sewage would be allowed.

Recreational vehicles, shown for illustrative purposes, Iron County, Utah, March 11, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

During the meeting, Commissioner Paul Cozzens cited an example of someone who is currently living with his wife and two children in an RV on their own 1.5-acre property.

“They’re living there full-time,” Cozzens said. “He doesn’t make a lot of money, but he does provide for his family. His wife stays at home with their two small children. He hauls water to his property. He uses a trough heater to keep it from freezing. He’s got his RV winterized to where they can live in it year-round. He hauls his sewage off with a tank and dumps it properly into a dump station. Without an exemption like this for an individual like this, out in the west part of our county with the ordinance, he would have been forced off of his property.”

The relevant section of the code also applies to motor homes, mobile homes, truck trailers, boats, campers and camping trailers. 

To qualify for the exemption, owner-occupants must submit an affidavit to the county stating under penalty of perjury that they own the property and occupy the recreational vehicle in question, and they must assume responsibility for such things as water supply, sewage waste disposal and vehicle winterization and maintenance. They are also expected to sign up and pay for trash pickup service.

The owner-occupant exemptions are not allowed in certain excluded areas, such as parcels zoned R-1/2, private subdivisions or planned unit developments that are subject to their own covenants and restrictions. An Iron County zoning map is available online. (See Ed. note)

During the meeting, county resident Volney Morin commented publicly and expressed concerns about what he called a “slippery slope” toward government overreach.

“My first thought was that this seems to be a pattern of more regulation, more taxation, more complexity, when there may be a more simple solution,” Morin said. “And part of that simple solution, I think, involves trust. … There are people that make messes, (but) I think it’s important for us to remember that most of us are responsible. Most of us take care of our own business. And most of us just want to be left alone.”

A recreational vehicle, shown for illustrative purposes, Iron County, Utah, March 11, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Nevertheless, Cozzens emphasized that something needed to be done.

“Under the current ordinance, it’s not even legal to do anything, so we really needed something,” he said. “We’re trying to fix it by cutting the bandage to fit the wound and making sure it’s limited in nature.”

Fellow Commissioner Marilyn Wood said that for her, the issue comes down to people taking personal responsibility to “take care of themselves.”

“That’s what’s really important,” she said.

Commissioner Mike Bleak shared similar sentiments as he thanked the Planning Commission and Erickson for their work on the ordinance and code amendments.

“Exactly what Paul said: Let’s make the Band-Aid fit,” Bleak said. “It is not our intent, or the building department or the Sheriff’s Office or anybody else, to kick anyone off their land. We just simply need some kind of regulation for those most egregious cases. It will always be our intent to work with people to help them have a healthy place to live.”

Ed. note: An earlier version of this article listed the zoning designation as R-1 or R-2.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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