Is Billings, Montana now RV-unfriendly?

Discussion in 'General RVing' started by Kirk, Aug 5, 2005.

  1. Kirk

    Kirk Senior Member

    I just saw this posted on the site. Wondering if anyone here knows anything about the story?

    quote:RV owners upset with city over parking laws
    Of The Gazette Staff

    RV owners are up in arms over attempts by the city of Billings to
    enforce a section of city code prohibiting overnight RV camping
    except in licensed campgrounds.

    Although the crackdown started last summer, the city didn't hear any
    complaints from RV owners until recently. Nancy McCullough, a
    commercial code enforcement officer for the city, said she has
    fielded 12 complaints from RV owners since June 27.

    Four people from different parts of the country have sent letters
    decrying the city's actions to The Gazette. One letter writer warned
    that news of the crackdown "is beginning to radiate through the RV
    community" and could ultimately cause a lot of tourists to bypass the

    McCullough and her boss, Planning and Community Services Director
    Ramona Mattix, say it's simply a case of responding to complaints
    that city laws were being ignored.

    The main law in question is part of the city's traffic code and has
    been on the books since at least 1967. It says, in full: "It is
    unlawful for any person to park any motor vehicle for camping
    purposes in the city except in an authorized tourist park."

    When the owners of several RV parks complained last summer that RVs
    were illegally parking overnight in the two Wal-Mart lots in
    Billings, city officials met with Wal-Mart representatives last
    September. As a result, Wal-Mart started posting signs in its lots,
    informing patrons that it was against the law to park there

    In addition, the stores agreed to have their security guards put
    fliers explaining the law under the windshield wipers of any RVs
    parked at Wal-Mart for more than four hours after 9 p.m. or at any
    time past 2 a.m. Mattix said that has been the extent of enforcing
    the law. City code enforcement officers have not issued any

    Some of the people who wrote letters to the editor complained that
    they only wanted to take a quick nap and used Wal-Mart lots for
    convenience. Mattix said they probably wouldn't be affected by the

    "If someone just wanted a few hours' sleep in the middle of the
    afternoon, I don't know how we could tell them from other Wal-Mart
    shoppers," she said.

    John Terzich, the assistant manager of the Wal-Mart in the Heights,
    said every RV owner who comes into the store tells him they've never
    had problems parking at any other Wal-Mart. They don't really
    complain, he said, "they just want to know why."

    Marty Heires, a Wal-Mart spokesman at company headquarters in
    Bentonville, Ark., said Wal-Mart has never actively encouraged
    overnight camping. It's just something that developed over time and
    was not objected to by the company because people who spend the night
    in the parking lot generally spend some money at Wal-Mart in the

    Overnight camping is prohibited by some individual stores because
    there isn't enough room, he said, and there are other places where
    local laws ban camping in parking lots. He said the only place he
    could think of where such laws are strictly enforced was in

    "We're fine with that," he said. "We perfectly understand that.
    Wherever it's prohibited, we comply with local ordinances."

    Lt. Greg Willoughby of the Missoula Police Department said the law
    there only prohibits people from camping in RVs on public right of
    way. A couple of years ago, however, someone misinterpreted the law
    and Wal-Mart posted signs saying it was illegal for RVs to spend the
    night. When store managers were told it was legal, Willoughby said,
    the signs came down.

    McCullough said Lowe's, which is just west of the West End Wal-Mart,
    voluntarily posted signs explaining the city law after RVs evicted
    from Wal-Mart start spilling into the Lowe's lot. McCullough said
    there used to be as many as 20 RVs a night in the West End Wal-Mart

    At the KOA Kampground on Garden Avenue - the first KOA in the
    country - RV owners who don't want any services can park their rigs
    for $28 a night. The fee goes up to $45 for water, electric and sewer

    The city also received complaints about RVs parking at the Holiday
    Inn Grand Montana Hotel and Convention Center on Midland Road.
    General Manager Scott Larsen said the hotel had been offering 21 RV
    slots for many years, aiming the service at long-distance travelers
    who might like a chance to use hotel amenities on occasion.

    For $25 a night, the Holiday Inn gives RV owners a room key that
    gives them access to the hotel pool, laundry, exercise room and bar
    and restaurant, plus an electrical hookup. RVers can even have room
    service deliver meals to their vehicles. Larsen said he had no idea
    such a service was illegal until he was contacted by the city earlier
    this summer.

    His solution was to apply for a campground license through the state
    Department of Health and Human Services, which he says was promptly
    granted. The license has to be renewed annually and costs $40 a year,
    he said.

    City Councilman Dave Brown said he heard from at least one RV owner
    upset with the city law, and Brown said he suggested at a recent
    council meeting that the law be repealed. So far the idea hasn't gone
    beyond the discussion stage, he said.

    Meanwhile, the city continues to field complaints about RVs parked in
    the front yard of private residences or used for living or sleeping.
    Those uses are prohibited by zoning ordinance, not traffic law, and
    as such are not dealt with by McCullough, who handles commercial

    But she said her residential code enforcement colleagues have been
    kept running. One man who was cited for illegal RV storage drove
    around the city and entered complaints on more than 200 illegally
    parked RVs, McCullough said. Code enforcement officers are slowly
    working their way through the list, she said.
    Ed Kemmick can be reached at 657-1293
  2. DL Rupper

    DL Rupper Senior Member

    Is Billings, Montana now RV-unfriendly?

    Best way for RV'ers to combat stupid laws is to boycott the city :( :disapprove: :angry: :dead:

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