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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

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Middle Clarifies Campground Building Rules

A member of the Old Stagecoach Condo Campground in Middle Township rises to speak in opposition to the ordinance.

By Vince Conti

COURT HOUSE – At its meeting Oct. 7, the Middle Township Committee adopted an ordinance that the township says clarifies language concerning campground residential structures. The goal is to ensure that such structures are not permanent.
Campgrounds are an important component of the tourism economy in the township. At its reorganization meeting in January, the governing body renewed licenses for 15 campgrounds with a combined 4,308 sites sitting on almost 8,000 acres. New Jersey campgrounds, unlike mobile home parks, are intended as temporary seasonal dwellings used for camping and recreation. They may not be used as a permanent dwelling place or domicile for occupants. 
The newly adopted ordinanceis intended to “standardize language to ensure that campgrounds are campgrounds,” said MayoTimothy Donohue. What prompted the ordinance was an increase in the number of seemingly permanent residential structures being built in township campgrounds. The ordinance, according to township officials, better defines “the types of non-permanent structures which are permissible as additions within campgrounds.” 
Not everyone agreed. A number of residents of township campgrounds attended the meeting, raising issues about the definitions of permanent and non-permanent structures. Of particular concern were requirements in the ordinance that directed Florida room accessory structures to be “pre-engineered.”
Some of those who argued against the ordinance definitions pointed to supply chain problems for modular or pre-engineered structures and sought the flexibility of “stick build” structures that are designed in sections for easier removal. 
Representatives of the condo association at Old Stagecoach Campground spoke of the differences between “condo” campgrounds, where each individual lot is separately owned, and traditional campgrounds. 
The ordinance provides rules for the size of accessory rooms, roofs over structures, plumbing, electrical wiring and footings. It imposes restrictions some in attendance at the meeting considered too inflexible. Donohue said the ordinance changes were necessary to balance the requirement that campgrounds be temporary residences with the desire to allow property owners “the enjoyment of their properties.” 
Earlier this year, Upper Township adopted changes to its municipal code to prevent year-round living in its campgrounds. Of particular interest in the debate on those changes was the prohibition of roof-overs with campground residents arguing that roof-overs made their property more structurally sound in storms. 
Upper Township was clear that one of the motivating factors in the changes was the concern that families would seek to use the campgrounds for year-round living which would qualify any children to enroll in public school. That point is especially contentious as the campgrounds do not pay school taxes. 
Some have argued that the campgrounds are attractive as year-round living options because of the lack of affordable housing in the county. No one speaking against the Middle Township ordinance changes argued for year-round living in a campground, but the township’s aim was to ensure the residential structures were compliant with the intent of campgrounds as seasonal living arrangements. 
Middle Township also licenses 16 mobile home parks with a total of 982 sites where year-round living is allowed. 
Despite the arguments presented by the public during Middle’s required ordinance hearing, the changes were adopted by unanimous vote. Donohue promised the township would return to the definitions “over time” as the results of their implementation become clear. 
Thoughts? Email vconti@cmcherald.com.

 

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