RVs in Sussex County occupy gray areaOwners rent sites seasonally, leave RV long-term
Sussex County — More people now own RVs than ever, an industry survey shows.
A 2011 survey by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association shows RV ownership has reached a new peak of 8.9 million RV-owning households nationwide, up from 7.9 million in 2005.
“Today's record RV ownership levels reflect the enduring appeal of the RV lifestyle despite recent economic challenges,” said Richard Coon, Recreational Vehicle Industry Association president in a press release.
The National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) also sees outdoor hospitality as a growth industry, but with a caveat.
Jennifer Schwartz, ARVC’s senior director of communications, said the industry is in transition as retirement-age RV park owners sometimes close and go out of business.
“There are parks along the East Coast that were hit by Hurricane Sandy that might not be rebuilt,” Schwartz said in a recent Cape Gazette interview.
Historically, RV park proposals are rare in Sussex County, but this year two have been proposed – Love Creek RV Resort and Campground and Massey's Landing Park; both under consideration by county officials.
“We haven’t had a request for one in years,” said Lawrence Lank, Sussex County Planning and Zoning office director.
Massey's Landing Park, with 322 RV sites and 10 tent sites, is awaiting a county zoning-change decision. The project, near the public boat ramp at the end of Long Neck Road, has received entrance permits and a letter of no objections from the Delaware Department of Transportation.
Love Creek RV Resort and Campground, on Cedar Grove Road and near Ward Road, is awaiting a DelDOT traffic impact study, which, Lank said, was expected to be ready by March 15 but has been delayed.
Pending county approvals, the proposed campground would be situated on a 162-acre parcel and contain 628 camping sites – 516 for recreational vehicles, 30 for tents and sites for rental cabins.
Developer: Additional sites needed
Together, the two parks will add 838 new RV sites in Sussex County, which has an estimated total of 4,200 sites.
Nick Hammonds, a representative with Love Creek resort developer Lingo Assets Management, said the company thinks the area needs another RV park, especially in light of closure in 2007 of Three Seasons Campground, with more than 300 sites, near Rehoboth Beach Yacht and Country Club. Hammonds said the campground parcel reportedly sold for eight figures.
“That was a very successful campground, and its closure left a void of several hundred sites,” he said.
Hammonds said the Love Creek campground has not yet been designed and estimated it could cost $20 million for engineering, earthmoving, utility installation and road construction. He said the estimate does not include land costs.
“We’re not going to design the project until we know we have approvals,” he said.
Hammonds said the RV park is not a placeholder for a residential community. “We wouldn’t be putting money into designing and building an RV park only to have a plan in the future of tearing everything out to do a residential development.
“If we thought a residential development was the best use of that property, that would have been the plan we took in the first time,” he said, adding the company has home-building experience and is currently working in Senators, a development near Lewes.
Hammonds said the company is committed to improving Ward and Cedar Grove roads, and he says the RV park would generate less traffic than a housing development.
He said he expects a confirming traffic study to be submitted in the next 30 days or so.
Still, homeowners who would be living adjacent the RV park say they oppose the facility because it will generate too much traffic on Ward and Cedar Grove roads and on nearby Route 24. Residents also say the roads are too narrow for wide vehicles to use safely.
“It’s not appropriate for the area. It’s out of character, and it doesn’t offer any economic advantage,” said Paul Hammesfahr, a homeowner and president of The Retreat at Love Creek Homeowners Association. Hammesfahr said Ward Road couldn’t be sufficiently modified to handle RV traffic.
He also said fewer than 400 feet would lie between the adjacent Webbs Landing and Briarwood developments, a separation he said does not meet county regulations.
Park model RVs: Tax-free housing
RVs in Sussex County parks slip into a gray zone. RVs have wheels and, typically, their owners use them to travel from place to place with many of the comforts of home.
But in many local parks and campgrounds most RVs, especially those called Park Model RVs, are set up on a site and once there they are not moved.
Owners of RVs in parks do not pay Sussex County taxes; they pay park owners a seasonal lot rent plus utilities. Most owners leave their RVs on-site as long as they continue paying the seasonal rate.
Seasonal rates cover about six months, starting in May and ending in October when park owners shutoff utility services.
Some parks offer ongoing customers special rates when they pay for the upcoming season in advance and reserve a selected site and allow RVs to remain on site if the seasonal fee is paid.
But many parks require RV owners to move out of the park at the end of each rental season.
Unlike some other Cape Region parks, the proposed Love Creek RV Resort and Campground will provide seasonal customers a reserved site, but it will require RVs to be moved and, for a fee, parked in an on-site storage area.
Park models are classified as RVs, yet once in place, they rarely hit the road again. “It’s a different animal,” says Sussex County Councilman George Cole, D-Bethany Beach, comparing a park model RV to typical RVs towed by a pickup truck or SUV.
Cole said park models started showing up in this area in the late ‘90s. He said RV park owners saw an economic advantage in making most of their sites seasonal-only, and the larger, well-appointed park models were becoming increasingly popular.
Seasonal customers pay a flat rate and most leave their RVs in parks year-round, blurring the line between a campground and a manufactured home park.
“At first they were very small; now they’ve gotten larger. Some of them have two stories,” Cole said in a May 29 interview.
He said county and state officials gave the park model an RV designation, and neither governing body has kept pace with changes to park models, which no longer resemble what people think of as RVs.
“The county never really addressed it. We tried to address it years ago,” Cole said.
He said when the governor issues a coastal evacuation order because of weather conditions, conventional RVs can easily leave the area.
“A park model doesn’t come and go easily,” Cole said, adding that towing one requires a special permit and a vehicle larger than a pickup truck.
He said owners of park model and other RVs do not pay Sussex County taxes but they benefit from county services, such as Sussex County Emergency Medical Services, which is paid for by county taxpayers.
Cole said he’d like to see the county set a limit on the number of Park Models permitted in future RV parks.
“We could allow only a certain percentage of park models in an RV park. County council has the ability to place conditions such as restricting park models,” he said.
Cole said the county could also derive revenue from existing and future park models by establishing a placement fee. He said owners who have park models already in place could be given a grace period before being required to pay the placement fee.
“Developers are looking at campgrounds as an attractive development, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But we need to address park models,” Cole said.
He said park models meet the definition of manufactured homes in Sussex County.
Sussex County code defines a manufactured home as “a one-family dwelling designed for transportation, after fabrication, on streets and highways on its own wheels or supported by other vehicles or trailers, but which is not self-propelled is . . . supported on jacks or other foundations and connected to utilities and the like.” It’s a definition that also fits park models.
Most units are constructed using conventional 2-by-4 wood sidewall framing, marine-grade plywood sub floors, fiberglass roof shingles, in-floor ducted heat runs, fiberglass wall and floor insulation and other home construction features.
Instead of a foundation, park models are built on a wheeled chassis made of 10-inch wide I-beams. Several companies manufacture Park Model RVs of various sizes. A 40-foot long unit might have pop-out sections to make rooms larger.
Defining RV parks, campgrounds, resorts
The outdoor hospitality industry has no precise definition of an RV park, but a few generic definitions apply.
A campground is usually rustic and accommodates tents. Campgrounds are family-oriented, feature activities for kids and are frequently filled to capacity on weekends and holidays.
An RV park might have a few or hundreds of sites. Most offer full hookups, also known as a three-way –water, sewer and electricity. Many also provide cable TV and wireless internet service. Transient RV park users stay a few days and then roll to another destination. Park sites accommodate RVs of various sizes often towed by a pickup truck that also tows a compact car. Also popular are RV motor homes, a vehicle and living space combined. RV parks usually have activities for children and adults. Many RV parks ban tents
RV resorts are considered high-end RV camping that caters to an adult-oriented lifestyle. They offer full hookups and many amenities – pools, fitness facilities, general store, clubhouse, and boat slips at those near water. Many RV resorts do not allow tents. RV park names can be misleading when a mix of facility types are used such as, Your Place RV Resort Park and Campground, which might not allow tent camping.
Parks and resorts sometimes set limits on the age of the RVs they permit. For example, one local RV park doesn’t allow RVs manufactured prior to 1999.
RV parks and campgrounds in Sussex County
There are more than 4,200 RV sites in Sussex County. This is a partial list of the largest and most popular RV parks, resorts and campgrounds. All parks accept RVs, but not all parks allow tents.
• Bayshore Campground & Marina, Ocean View– 324 RVs
• Big Oaks Family Campground, Rehoboth Beach– up to 60 RVs
• Cape Henlopen State Park, Lewes– 154 sites, several tents
• Delaware Seashore State Park, Rehoboth Beach– 348 RVs, several tents
• Holly Lake Campsites, Rehoboth Beach– 1,000+ mostly RVs
• Homestead Campground, Georgetown– 350 RVs
• Leisure Point Resort, Long Neck– 300 RVs
• Lost Lands RV Park, Fenwick Island– 165 RVs
• Sea Air Village R.V. Resort, Rehoboth Beach– 100 RVs
• Steamboat Landing RV Park, Lewes– 420 RVs
• Tall Pines Campground, Lewes– 22 RVs
• Trap Pond State Park, Laurel– 142 RVs, several tents
• Tuckahoe Acres Camping Resort, Dagsboro– 536 RVs
• Treasure Beach RV Park and Campground, Selbyville– 1,000 RVs
Yogi Bear Jellystone Park, Lincoln– 277 RVs