Personal taste is not the key to the trailer issue
By Bob Adair
At the August 9 meeting the ad hoc committee reviewing the Architectural Review Committee (ARC) guidelines took on the issue of RVs, over-sized vehicles and trailers in Ocean Pines. From the tone and direction of the discussion throughout the meeting it was evident that the subject of “trailers” has become a hot-button topic and may well be the catalyst that dictated the need to review the guidelines.
The heart of the matter is in the definition and wording of what constitutes an over-sized vehicle today and what type of conveyance falls under the definition of trailer. After the definitions were clarified the committee then had to ensure the requirements stipulated in the guidelines reflect the wording in the Declaration of Restrictions concerning these vehicles.
Before continuing with the narrative about the committee discussions on this subject it may be worthwhile to highlight what the requirements are if someone has a vehicle that falls within the affected category. First, the vehicle must be kept on the property and behind the front building restriction line when possible and screened from public view. Next, evergreens should be used to screen the vehicle, and the ARC can ask for the removal of the vehicle if these conditions are not met. Lastly, no vehicle shall be used as a dwelling place, nor any over-night camping be permitted on any lot in any vehicle.
The current guidelines contain the required steps an owner of one of these vehicles must take to obtain a temporary parking permit or a long term parking permit from the ARC.
This means that owners of vehicles falling under the guideline definition of RV, over-sized vehicle or trailer must position it out of public view, screen it and obtain a permit to do so. In the case of long term parking or storing the ARC requires a site plan, application for long-term parking, filing fee and a completion agreement and escrow fee.
The committee was faced with determining, “what is in your driveway or property?” The committee looked at the over-sized vehicle category. Years ago a vehicle with a one-ton or more capacity was a commercial vehicle such as a stake-bed or a tractor trailer. Today several of the larger SUVs and the full-sized pick-up trucks have the capacity of carrying a ton.
The current definition of a trailer in the ARC guideline says: “A wheeled towed unit that may be enclosed, have a flat bed, or a frame designed for holding a particular load; and the unit is longer that 16’ in length and/or 4 feet or more in height.”
Committee Chairman Skip Carey and committee member Dave Walter pointed out that the use of the word “trailer” in the Authority and Objective paragraphs of this section imply a house trailer. Both paragraphs state the intent is to prohibit living or camping on the property.
Section 8.A (b) of the Declaration of Restrictions states, “No temporary house, trailer, tent, garage or other outbuilding shall be placed or erected on any lot, provided, however, that the committee may grant permission for temporary storage of materials during construction. No such temporary structure as may be approved shall be used at any time as a dwelling place, nor shall overnight camping be permitted on any lot.”
According to committee member Gail Kretschmar, one of the most knowledgeable individuals about Ocean Pines Association (OPA) documentation, this is the only reference to “trailers” in the Restrictions covering all the sections.
From the outset of the meeting Mr. Walter had been pointing out that the guidelines applied to all trailers meeting the description, which includes boat trailers. He went on to point out that the ARC inspectors were segregating the different types of trailers and issuing violations to those owning utility trailers used in the individual’s professional trade. He mentioned one case where an electrician had been issued a citation because he had a trailer in plain view on a property where he had been called to make repairs.
According to the 2003 demographic survey conducted by the Princeton Research Group Inc., 76 percent of boat owners in Ocean Pines keep their boat on the property; 13 percent keep them outside the Pines and the remaining 11 percent keep them at the Pines marina. Almost any boat trailer today fits the criteria (out of public view/screened/requiring permit) listed in the guidelines either as an over-sized vehicle or under the definition of a trailer.
From the comments among the committee members and from attendees at the session there are many perceptions of what should be ruled by these guidelines. Some want utility trailers banned, others resent large boats sitting all year across the street in a driveway. Others are in favor of allowing tradesmen to park the vehicle while performing work but not leaving it there overnight. One resident, Rose Fiechter, said she used the signs on the side of trailers and trucks in her neighborhood to find various service personnel. She said she liked to give the business to neighbors.
The list of personal preferences goes on and on, however, the committee is bound by the OPA documents that establish the authority to set the guidelines. This section does allow for variances, however, once again, they are based on need to prevent hardship. This subject will be continued in the next meeting.
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