Photo credit: Paul Brennan from Pixabay
By Zendelle Bouchard
At the City Council meeting on September 5, 2023, a public hearing was held on a proposed ordinance establishing remedial residential regulation for recreational vehicles being used as temporary living quarters. Community Development Director Ian Houseal said the ordinance was developed in cooperation with the Land Bank Authority and reviewed by the Zoning Subcommittee. He noted that over the last winter, the City documented at least seven instances of people living in trailers. The proposed ordinance would limit use of an RV for temporary living quarters to 120 days between April 15 and November 1. Following a question from a member of the public, Houseal clarified that the proposed ordinance would not apply to people living in cars and trucks.
Later in the meeting, a first reading on the ordinance was held. Council members debated the 120-day limit, and whether living in a camper might be a better solution for an unhoused person than living outdoors. Code Enforcement Officer Jamie Cole said recreational vehicles are insulated to protect against a cold snap in October, not four months of sustained living during a Maine winter. “We don’t want to be in the business of allowing unsafe conditions,” he said. Councilor Pete Tranchemontagne said the ordinance would allow citizens to use their land without turning it into a campground, but said he would like to have more input from City departments before agreeing to extend it beyond 120 days.
Cole said sewage disposal has been the biggest concern. He said having a tank pumped every few days gets expensive very quickly. Councilor Jonathan Martell pointed out that many people who are living in an RV while visiting family or friends may be using the facilities inside the house.
In addition to the time limit and the sewage disposal plan requirement, the proposed ordinance establishes that an RV used as temporary living quarters shall be fully registered and ready for highway use, shall meet required setbacks, shall not be within 15 feet of a property line, and shall not be within 30 feet of another RV being used for housing. No coverings or tarps, and no structures or additions other than an awning, may be attached to the RV.
The ordinance will be discussed again at the Zoning Subcommittee meeting on Tuesday, September 12. If there are only minor revisions, the second reading will be held at the Council meeting September 19. If major revisions are made, it will come back for another first reading. Two readings are required before the Council can vote on any new ordinance or ordinance amendment.