On October 4, at the behest of the Teton County prosecuting attorney, sheriff’s deputies investigated five reports of illegal campgrounds or RV parks and determined that four of the complaints were founded.
Campgrounds are allowed in most parts of the county, but the operator must apply for a conditional use permit. County planning administrator Gary Armstrong explained that many people have trailers or RVs stored on their property, which sometimes serve as guest bedrooms for company; in other instances, people who live elsewhere own property here and when they’re visiting or building a permanent residence, they park on their land in trailers.
“All of these uses must be respected,” Armstrong said. “At the same time, this kind of thing gets abused, and one camp trailer turns into four or five, and instead of a short term experience, they become homes for people.”
This often results in unsanitary gray water and waste disposal, which poses a health risk, and infringes on neighbors’ rights.
“The tough thing is finding a balance that can respect private property rights, short term uses, yet preventing the creation of "campgrounds" that have not been permitted, that lack sufficient sanitary facilities, and diminish neighboring property values and quality of life,” Armstrong said.
Three of the four non-permitted campground operators live outside of Teton County, so the prosecutor’s office served the misdemeanor charges by mail. The penalty for operating a campground or RV park without a permit is up to six months in jail and a fine not exceeding $1,000.
Code enforcement is a struggle that all the local municipalities have wrestled with. At last week’s Teton County Board of County Commissioners meeting, prosecutor Billie Siddoway told the commissioners that while the sheriff’s office can enforce some issues such as the RV parks, other issues are contract violations that her office needs guidance from the BOCC to deal with.
“My hope is that we will be able to bring people into compliance with the zoning code,” Siddoway told the Teton Valley News in an email.
The commissioners agreed to hold a work session on Oct. 22 to discuss the code and its enforcement before presenting some proposals to take to the public for comment.