The full spectrum of what it means to “be RVing” has been on display this past month, from coast to coast and from one economic extreme to the other. But regardless of their economic status, the people with the RVs are ending up with the short end of the stick, albeit for very different reasons.
Homeless in Sacramento
On the West Coast, the city of Sacramento on Monday dispatched a fleet of tow trucks and other municipal vehicles to clear out 160 fifth-wheels, travel trailers, Class A and C motorhomes and an assortment of vans and cars lining Commerce Circle, a road looping around an industrial park. Most of the wheeled shelters managed to roll out on their own, according to The Sacramento Bee, which reported on a flurry of last-minute repairs as their owners searched frantically for tires or tools, but 18 RVs and other vehicles were towed, nonetheless.
Local business owners said the encampment first appeared with the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, although the city had already been (and still is) coping with as many as 6,000 homeless residents at any one time. Ironically, while the area has now been cleared of rolling stock just as colder weather is settling in – nighttime temperatures have been dropping into the 30s – the city continues to allow the homeless to sleep in the area in tents.
Proposed RV resort in Virginia
Simultaneously, 3,000 miles to the east, a decision about a proposed RV resort has been punted into January, following two recent hearings that provided insufficient time for hearing a storm of opposing public comments.
Proposed shortly after the pandemic kicked in, the plan for an 83-acre membership RV resort was pitched initially to the Orange County, Virginia, Planning and Zoning Department. As befits an area known for its vineyards and hunt country, the special use application promised an “exclusive resort development for use by the growing Motorcoach industry developing throughout the nation.” In addition to its 250 owner-occupied sites – to be priced between $100,000 and $375,000 – the facility’s commonly owned amenities were to include a camp store, a community building and a boat ramp and slips, as set out in a three-page project narrative that was otherwise woefully short on details.
The proposal was so sketchy it was unanimously shot down in August 2020, with county planners complaining about its “many unresolved questions” and “information [that] remains insufficient to provide an adequate staff review.” Undeterred, the project’s backers quickly lined up some top-notch development talent, beefed up and radically modified their proposal and finagled a little boundary line shifting – which, providentially, took land that had straddled the border between two counties and moved it all to just one.
Boundary moved for proposed RV resort in Virginia
That’s how this year the same principals took a second bite of the apple – but this time before the Spotsylvania County Planning Commission. And what a bite it was! Instead of a membership campground, the revamped Four Seasons at Lake Anna RV Resort proposed 300 RV sites – including up to 90 park models – on a 135-acre tract, together with all the amenities needed to justify nightly rates upward of $200: 300 boat slips (later scaled back to 49), a staffed gatehouse and “five-star welcome center,” a rec center and game room, an indoor fitness center, a community center with “dining facility,” several playgrounds and dog parks, a couple of amphitheaters, several hot tubs and swimming pools, a splash pad and two gaga pits, pickleball courts, watercraft sports and a lakeside grill….
All this to be built on the shore of a northern branch of Lake Anna, Virginia’s second-largest freshwater lake, in an agricultural area where standard housing density is one home per two acres. Locals, no surprise, reacted with outrage at the idea of a subdivision and commercial enterprise being plopped into their midst, not least because since 2018 that end of Lake Anna has been overwhelmed with ever larger blooms of toxic cyanobacteria. More development, they argued, would only further poison the waters. In no time at all, the Lake Anna Civic Association gathered several hundred signatures on a petition opposing the proposal, its president deriding the developers as “disingenuous” in their presentations.
Ongoing public hearings on proposed RV resort
A first public hearing on the proposal, held Nov. 17, was recessed after four hours of comments and resumed Dec. 1 – only to be recessed again, with more than 60 comments still to be read into the record. The hearing is scheduled to resume Jan. 5, after which the planning commission will make a recommendation to the county board of supervisors for a final determination.
Whether deep-pocketed Rvers will have a chance to park their wheels at the Four Seasons at Lake Anna is unknown at this time, of course, but given recent developments, I’ll go out on a limb and say it won’t happen.
In Sacramento, on the other hand, the Commerce Circle refugees who managed to escape the tow trucks undoubtedly are parked on some other street – for now. While in one instance, RVers lost out because they don’t have enough, in the other, they lost out because they bring too much. In both cases, those with neighborhood roots prevailed over those without any.
Andy Zipser is the author of Renting Dirt, the story of his family’s experiences owning and operating a Virginia RV park. The fascinating book, recently published, is available at many large bookstores and at Amazon.com.