“It's either safe or it's not safe, that's all there is to it,” said Camp Clearwater manager Larry Barnhart. “There's no argument, and that's how it's going to be. Clearwater will be in compliance, period.”
Barnhart, who was sworn in as a member of the White Lake Town Council Tuesday, said Wednesday that the campground “wants to be a part of the town.”
“We live at White Lake, and want to be good citizens,” he said. “The rules are the same for anyone.”
Town officials earlier this year ordered an inspection of the town's 11 campgrounds, looking for violations of building and fire codes. Fire officials had become concerned over enclosed attachments to camper-trailers, sheds and storage buildings that didn't comply with town codes, and fire safety violations at all the campgrounds.
Inspections started this summer in Clearwater. With over 1,000 sites, the campground is the largest at the lake.
Zoning inspector Tim Frush, Fire Chief Dale Brennan and Barnhart went door to door noting problems. Notices were sent out recently to 616 campers informing them of the violations, and the campground's new policy of zero tolerance for building and safety violations.
“The work is underway,” Barnhart said Wednesday.
In a letter sent to campers and to the White Lake Board of Commissioners, Clearwater customers were instructed to get permission from the campground and obtain all appropriate town and county permits.
The letter also encourages campers to clean up their sites and if necessary, upgrade their campers to newer models.
“We urge you to think...about spending more of your hard earned dollars on a unit that is very old,” the letter states. “If you do not correct the zoning violations, you will not be able to remain in the park.”
The letter also re-emphasizes the prohibition against roofs over campers. Owners are also reminded that older substandard campers that are sold may not remain in the park.
Of 853 campers affected by the regulations, 30 are vacant or for sale, according to Camp Clearwater. Out of the remaining 823, 553 were invited to return with no changes to their sites; 186 units will have to be removed if they are sold, and may require upgrades in 2006; and 44 have violations that must be fixed before the end of 2006.
Forty units must be removed entirely by the end of this month.
At Tuesday's board of commissioners meeting, Mayor Goldston Womble complimented the campground's management for their willingness to bring the facility into compliance. He thanked Barnhart and David Clark, one of the campground's owners, for “leading the way” as the town strives to bring all the campgrounds into compliance.
“It helps the town when the campgrounds are willing to say, ‘if you don't get in compliance, you will have to leave,'” Womble said.
Barnhart said the largest majority of campers were improving or repairing their sites and campers, bringing them into compliance with the town's rules.
“People are reasonable about these things,” he said. “They know we mean business. I'm not going to let anyone's safety be jeopardized at Camp Clearwater, and if the officials say it isn't safe. it's got to go. That's all there is to it.”
In a relatred matter at Tuesdayu's meeting, mayor pro tem Jeff Corbett asked that the town find out “once and for all” if permanent enclosed attachments are legal with camper trailers.
The town board is considering a laundry list of text changes in the town's zoning and building ordinance, including the provision that attachments will be allowed if they meet all zoning setbacks, safetry regulations and building codes.
“I'd like to see this matter settled once and for all,” Corbett said.
At a suggestion by Mayor Womble, the board voted to delay scheduling a public hearing on the new text amendments until the final draft was received by the town. A printed version of the proposed new rules won't be available until January, Womble said.
The mayor said he wanted to be sure residents had time to come by the town hall and see the version of the rules the commissioners would be considering. While the rules will not be changed from those recently considered by the Planning Board and the commissioners, Womble said he wanted the “final version” available for inspection.
“I don't like to advertise a public hearing,” he said, “and have people come by to see what's being discussed, and staff have to tell them that they just have a version of what's being considered. I want them to be able to see what will actually be voted on.”