Bladen County Building Inspector Dennis Bullard Tuesday told the board Tuedsay that, while additions must meet building codes, Bullard’s office has no authority to regulate camper trailers themselves. For the most part, structures under 1,000 square feet that lack a footing or foundation that meet setback and building codes are not the responsibility of the county inspections office. Only permanent structures are regulated by Bullard’s office.
Bullard was responding to questions at a workshop Tuesday. White Lake commissioners scheduled the workshop originally to discuss rescinding the requirement for brick underpinning in mobile home parks that rent lots. At the request of Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Corbett at their February meeting, the board opted to discuss the possibility of banning all additions to campers and recreational vehicles except open decks.
A previous ruling from the state Fire Marshal’s office stated that additions to campers and RV’s are legal in North Carolina if they meet building codes and fire safety standards, and are not reliant on the camper for structural support.
“You could add 1,000 square feet to a camper,” Bullard said, “and it is not going to change what it is. It will always be a camper.”
Campers and recreational vehicles must go through an extensive renovation process and inspections before they can be considered permanent structures, Bullard said.
“It has never happened here,” Bullard said Thursday. “Few people will go to the trouble to convert a camper or RV into a residence. The camper would have to be certified by an archittect or engineer to meet standards for windspeed resistanced, floor and ceiling loads ... there are no exceptions.”
Additions, Bullard said, must meet applicable codes, “but no amount of additions is going to change something from what it is.”
“The Department of Insurance says freestanding structures are legal” as long as they meet setback rules and building codes, Bullard said.
“You can’t have a camper in compliance, then add a room or porch that exceeds the setback,” Bullard said.
Commissioner Larry Barnhart, who is also the manager of Camp Clearwater, the lake’s largest campground, told the board that Clearwater is “well on its way” to making sure its 1,000-plus campsites are compliant with setbacks and building codes.
Barnhart also announced to the board Tuesday that Clearwater is instituting a new internal policy on aesthetics and safety. The campground has already removed a number of rundown campers, and dozens of non-compliant structures have benn removed.
The new rules, Barnhart said, were created by campground staff with an engineer and a designer.
“Clearwater wants to continue being a good citizen of the town of White Lake,” Barnhart said. “We care about the appearance of the town as much as anyone else. That’s why we’ve been taking these extra steps.”
The town is considering 11 text changes to the zoning ordinance. While most are simple updates, a plan to limit additions and force campgrounds into compliance drew fire from campground customers and owners starting last year. The planning board recommended the town allow additions such as decks, porches and rooms if they meet building and setback codes.
A door-to-door inspection of every campsite in every Lake campground began last year. Clearwater was first on the list, and when a final inspection has been completed, the town will move on to the other RV parks.
Harvey Iwerks, chair of the planning board, told the commissioners Tuesday that his board recommends leaving the rules as they were written in 1997.
Commissioner Tim Blount said he felt “it might be time to change the rules.”
“They haven’t been followed in the past,” he said. “What’s to stop someone a few years down the road from doing it all over again?”
Blount also pointed out that while Clearwater has been working to bring its facilities into compliance, another campground down the road is now home “to an unGodly yellow addition” on another camper.
Barnhart said some of the blame lies with the toiwn, and some with the campgrounds.
“We haven’t alwways enforced the rules like we should have,” he said, “and the town hasn’t either. That’s what we’re both trying to fix now...to prevent future problems like this. I think leaving the rules as they are (requiring all structures meet local codes) and enforcing them is the route to go.”
The board will hold a public hearing at Tuesday’s meeting to discuss the underpinning rules change. To meet state laws requiring notice about public hearing topics, the town will have to hold a later hearing if further changes are considered regarding campers and RVs.
About 45 people, most from campgrounds or area business that depend on the RV parks, attended Tuesday’s work session.