By Kat Crockett March 1, 2021
A public hearing was held on Jan. 28, 2021 to adjudicate a request for a Conditional Use Permit to allow the property owner at 3244 SR 82 in Sonoita to build an RV Park with four units. The 0.64-acre property for the RV park (of a total of 1.15 acres in the parcel) is located behind the Dollar General at the crossroads, on land currently zoned B-2 (General Business). A conditional use permit is required because RV Parks are not allowed as a matter of right within B-2 zones.
After a notice of violation was issued by the County Planning and Zoning Dept. (P & Z) on Feb. 11, 2020 to owners Anthony Gray and Sharon Morris for developing the RV park without a Conditional Use Permit, the owners immediately removed all RVs, stopped work on property improvements, and applied for a permit. The RV park had been operating under the previous owners without proper permitting, unknown to the new owners. According to Morris, “We did not originally desire to do an RV park, we were just helping friends, but now that we know there is a need for this, we want to continue to pursue this.”
During a meeting last November, after several commissioners on the P & Z Board recused themselves from voting citing a conflict of interest, it was determined that there was not a quorum, and the public hearing was rescheduled for Jan. 28, 2021.
At the January meeting, Planning and Development Technician Roberto Rojas informed the commissioners that there were two letters of support within a 300-foot radius and, outside the 300 feet radius, 23 letters supporting the permit and 11 in opposition. Commissioner Marcelino Verona stated, “I would like clarification on this, in case people start coming to us. Can we listen to them, or take them (the letters) into consideration?” Following a discussion with staff attorney, Commissioner Nanci Pottinger ruled it would be discretionary.
Varona, echoing Commissioner Kathy Campana’s concern on the length of stays, asked P&Z Director Frank Dillion for the definition of “short term” and Dillon confirmed there was none. Morris added, “I do feel like we have a lot of support from the community and we certainly are not trying to de-value our property or our neighbor’s properties with a trailer park per se, this is short term camping, basically.” Co-owner Gray, said, “We were thinking that short term was six months for hunters – that was our idea.” After a lively 30-minute discussion by the Commission on duration of stays and enforcement issues, Verona addressed Dillion loudly declaring, “I despise the government overreach on business regulations, completely! I don’t want to get into this government overreach – I am not about that! Let them conduct their business. Six months, I don’t care what it is.”
Following the discussion period, Verona stated,” I feel pretty confident in my view that I do support the recommendation of the P&Z director, Mr. Dillion. By the looks of this presentation, these people are young entrepreneurs. They want to go ahead and develop the property and get a return on their investment. They seem to be concerned about environmental concerns around their property and I am sure those concerns can be incorporated into their business plan to make sure that the neighbors and everybody else is happy. I think with the barriers it will distract from it, but here again, if you have a Dollar Store right next to it there, the Dollar Store is more of a distraction than four trailers are going to be.”
The permit was approved on a vote of 3 for and 1 against. Randy Heiss was the only commissioner representing District 3, in which Sonoita is located, to vote against the variance.
Campagna, who lives in Rio Rico, voted in favor of the variance. Planning Commission member Kelly Bostock, of Sonoita, was not present at the meeting, but would have recused herself since her business abuts the property in question.
The approval will include several conditions for the owners,including limiting any one RV stay to no more than six months, installing an opaque perimeter wall sufficient in height to screen views into the park, and including a landscape buffer along the wall perimeter. There are no wastewater discharge hook-ups on the property, so a lengthy stay seems improbable.
The property, which totals 1.15 acres, does not meet the two-acre minimum requirement for an RV park in Santa Cruz County Code, an issue which was not discussed with the Commissioners. When asked if the conditional permitting granted by the Commission means that the owners can move forward with their plans, or does the county code minimum of two acres for an RV park still apply to them, Dillon wrote “The applicant is required to submit a Development Plan for the proposed use, which will require review and approval of a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) for conformance with the Santa Cruz County Zoning and Development Code standards, as well as any other applicable local, state and federal requirements.”