Is Billings, Montana now RV-unfriendly?

Kirk

Senior Member
#1
I just saw this posted on the RV.net site. Wondering if anyone here knows anything about the story?

quote:RV owners upset with city over parking laws
By ED KEMMICK
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
city.


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
overnight.

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
citations.

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
law.

"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
morning.

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
Wisconsin.

"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
lot.

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
hookups.

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
complaints.

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
 

DL Rupper

Senior Member
#2
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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