Keweenaw Cty. tells RV owners to move them

EAGLE RIVER – Keweenaw County residents who have recreational vehicles on their property without a primary building are being told to remove them by Dec. 1 or face prosecution.

Several people affected by the law said Thursday their RVs won’t be moving.

Letters were sent out to 14 residents on Nov. 12, said county Zoning Administrator Ann Gasperich. The county has done periodic counts throughout the year; however, some recipients may have complied before the letters were mailed, she said.

Keweenaw County originally sent out letters to residents in June notifying them they could not keep an RV on their property without a primary building for more than 90 days. If found guilty for the misdemeanor violation, they could face up to 90 days in jail or a $500 fine.

In July, Gasperich said the issue has been a long-standing concern for the county. She sent out notifications after getting clarification from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Many people who received the letters protested the county’s actions at planning commission and county board meetings. In response, the county Planning Commission, prosecutor and planning consultant Mark Wyckoff reviewed the violation letter and the relevant sections of the ordinance. The decision: The violation exists.

Gasperich said the primary factor in the decision was a written statement from Wyckoff, who helped the county draft the ordinance. Wyckoff said the policy is “fairly liberal and quite straightforward because it allows outdoor storage, but not on residential lots.”

According to ordinance, temporary dwellings such as RVs, travel trailers and mobile homes must be stored on the rear or side yard of a parcel with an existing primary structure. The vehicle cannot have a permanent power, water or sewer connection. People may also use commercial storage.

Residents with RVs in the Gay area questioned why the county is choosing now to give them orders about their property.

“We’ve been out there for five years, and this happened all of a sudden,” said Karen Mills. “We haven’t done anything wrong out there, and we go out in the wintertime and make sure everything’s OK and shovel the place out.”

Some also said the county is selectively enforcing the ordinance. Peggy Gariepy said she is seeking legal advice to find if the list of people who received the letters can be obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

“We do know someone who has a trailer on Keweenaw County property with no permanent structure and they’ve never gotten a notice from day one,” she said. “I think it’s just a select group of people they’re doing this to. I guess the Freedom of Information Act will tell us for sure.”

Residents said they have no plans to move their campers. For Chuck Junot, moving in and out would be difficult, he said, as his RV has three inches of clearance on either side.

“It’s our property,” he said. “We don’t have to move our own camper off our property. We’re in the middle of the bush. We’re not hurting anybody.”

Gasperich said after Dec. 1, the county will start the next step in the violations. Aside from the potential 90-day sentence, Gasperich said, the process is the same as a civil infraction: ticket, response to ticket, warrant and a court date.

“The follow-up and the entire process is no different, it’s just that it’s a misdemeanor,” she said.