Ocracoke travel trailer amendment on chopping block
Ocracoke Advisory Planning Board voted at its September meeting to
recommend removing the travel trailer section of the Ocracoke
Development Ordinance (ODO) on the premise that it duplicates FEMA and
other governmental rules.
Travel trailers as housing on
Ocracoke have been controversial for the last few years. In 2011,
the Planning Board while Darlene Styron was county commissioner began
looking at regulating campers as their use increased by island
employers needing summer housing for their employees.
trailers as ‘dwellings’ don’t exist in the state building code,”
explained Tom Pahl, a former chairman of the Planning
Board. The trailer amendment adopted by the board in 2012
says that if trailers are lived in for more than 30 days, they must be
permitted, road-ready and licensed and connected to electric and
“We wanted them ready to roll in a hurricane,” Pahl said.
addition, the amendment addressed health and safety concerns by
requiring campers be connected to legal electric and septic.
had trailers on the island that were connected by garden hoses and
extension cords, and draining septic waste into make-shift drains,”
Pahl said. “It wasn’t safe for the people living in the trailers
and it wasn't fair to the neighbors."
“Not everyone thinks a
bunch of travel trailers look good on Ocracoke,” responded B.J.
Oelschlegel, a realtor, who was chairwoman of the Planning Board when
the local amendment was crafted.
The current configuration of
board members reviewing the ODO has found that several governmental
agencies already regulate habitation in travel trailers.
(Federal Emergency Management Agency) has its own regulations and
they’re starting to enforce them,” retired lawyer and Hyde County
Commissioner for Ocracoke John Fletcher noted in an interview about the
proposed removal of the amendment.
“Then there are the
state regulations and the county building code. Why have another one?
The building inspector has enough of a problem (with permanent
structures) than to address a transitory problem.”
Fletcher campaigned for county commissioner in 2012 on rescinding this ordinance.
the Planning Board--which is advisory to the county commissioners--has
voted on this recommendation, Fletcher can put it on the commissioners’
agenda at any time for a vote. Fletcher said he would probably put
removal of the amendment on the Nov. 3 commissioners’ agenda to give
the community time to talk about it.
“They have, in effect,
made a recommendation to the county commissioners,” Pahl said of the
Planning Board’s decision. “But the commissioners have to have a public
hearing before they can act on this recommendation.”
The next Planning Board on Thursday, Oct. 9, at 5:30 p.m. in the Ocracoke School Commons room. It is open to the public.
Pentz, current chairman of the Advisory Planning Board, said that after
the board finishes its review of the ODO, it may reincorporate some
trailer items not covered by FEMA or others into a revised ODO that
will be sent to the North Carolina School of Government for legal
Oelschlegel is concerned about the removal of the amendment.
went through a lengthy process that was incredibly democratic and
consensus-based, and now they want to throw it out?” said Oelschlegel.
“How often will FEMA be here and how much control of our own destiny
does this community want to lose?”
“But FEMA’s rules trump everything and they’ve been here and are enforcing their rules,” noted Pentz.
rules have been adopted by the state, and the county has included FEMA
rules in the flood code, he said. In addition, there are the
Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) rules which govern wetlands.
Ocracoke and most of mainland Hyde are in a designated flood zone.
to FEMA guidelines, single-chassis RVs used for housing for fewer than
180 days must be fully licensed and ready for highway use. Trailers
must have inflated tires or a jacking system, be attached to the site
only by quick disconnect-type utilities and have no permanently
attached additions such as a deck or screen room.
North Carolina and FEMA rules say RVs in use more than 180 days must be
elevated seven feet above the mean high sea level and must include
permanent foundations and anchoring the same as manufactured homes.
FEMA rules, Pentz explained, if a trailer is used for permanent
housing, it must meet all the requirements for new construction,
including separate electric and water meters, a septic hook-up, valid
license plates and insurance. The cost of these actions typically
A controversial section of the trailer
amendment is the lot requirement. The ODO allows any residence or
business to install one travel trailer. Second trailers must be on lots
of at least 5,000 square feet.
“Five thousand square feet is enough for a duplex,” Fletcher said. “So why not a second travel trailer?”
Fletcher says that’s unfair. Travel trailers help solve the housing problem for seasonal workers, he said.
you have employees, you’ve got to provide housing,” he said. “Some
temporary help can’t find places. If you get too strict with this
kind of housing, you preclude people from living here and working. Most
people (on the island) don’t give a damn, but the beautification people
have their own ideas.”
(This article is reprinted with permission from the Ocracoke Observer.)