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Seven steps to protecting your motorhome rights

Here are steps you can take to protect motorhome parking rights in your neighborhood.

1. Keep tabs on parking
Document the locations where motorhomes are parked obtrusively.

Contact other FMCA members in your community and form a committee to promote proper motorhome parking.

Develop a motorhome parking presentation and then approach the residents who are pushing the envelope with respect to parking. Explain that they are providing fuel for local legislation that could lead to changes in zoning and infringement on their parking rights. Suggest ways that might reduce the visibility of the parked RVs.

2. Get noticed
Contact your local town hall officials and introduce yourself. Meet the building inspector and the zoning code enforcement officer (they are likely the same person). Explain that you are an RV owner and are interested in any information related to parking complaints.

Become the point person and let the local official know you are interested in any problems that may arise before they become public issues. Ask the support staff to inform you of any attempts to modify zoning code with regard to RVs.

3. Be vigilant
Keep an eye open to the public notices in your local newspaper, especially the legal announcements, which usually are quite prominent.

If contacted by local officials about parking problems, respond immediately. Keep in mind that the officials will not turn over the problem to you. It's their job to find a solution, if necessary.

Convey to them that you're not trying to circumvent their authority. Let them know that you have influence in the RV community in your municipality and that you can help to alleviate the perceived problem and reduce the amount of headache and paperwork that officials might have to contend with.

4. Spread the word
If you haven’t already composed a list of FMCA members in your community and introduced yourself, now is the time.

Also, consider approaching residents who have filed complaints, and working with them to make the situation a non-issue.

Take a lesson from the amateur radio community, which has state-designated representatives to whom FCC complaints are referred. The reps work with the alleged violators to arrive at a solution. These amateur radio reps usually are well received because they keep the target person from being involved in a governmental action.

We need to think the same way with our parking rights. FMCA has not progressed to the point of having such a person or committee in each state to deal with errant RV owners, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be the seed for this new idea.

5. Gather support
If a situation has progressed to the point of possible changes in parking rights, contact your fellow resident FMCA members. Appear at any hearings or meetings at which proposed changes to zoning law might affect you. The planning board or commission in a municipality usually is the body that brings zoning changes to the citizens for hearings and enactment by a vote.

Keep in mind that “regulations” usually are not voted on by the public and are part of a planning board’s authority with respect to site plan review and enforcement. These “regulations” can be changed by the planning board by a simple majority vote of that body.

Changes to the zoning regulations require public hearings and a vote by the citizens of the town in a town meeting type of government, or by the representatives in a representative type local government (aldermen, town council, etc.).

6. Know state regulations
If your community seeks to change zoning, check with your state statutes on zoning. Don’t simply look at the zoning ordinance in your community and stop there. Communities cannot supersede state laws, so you should be familiar with those laws too, as they apply to zoning.

In New Hampshire, for example, a zoning change requires a vote of two-thirds to be enacted if 10 percent of the affected citizens file an objection petition to the proposed legislation. If you can get 10 percent of the residents in your community who own RVs to sign an opposing petition to the proposed legislation, it would require a super majority to be enacted.

So, keeping up-to-date with your state regulations and the limits they place on the local community is important. Find out if your state is a "home rule" state where the municipalities can determine their own rules and regulations. You may find that your state is not a home rule state and the local municipality can do only what the state specifically allows them to do, as in New Hampshire.

7. Anticipate
One of the most important things you can do to protect motorhome rights is be prepared for an issue before it ever comes up. Talk about potential issues with local FMCA members and other RV owners.

Consider hosting a social at your home to meet other RVers and get to know them as friends and neighbors. A “community watch” works better with groups rather than an individual, so get your community RV watch group together as soon as you see the need for it.

Keep FMCA headquarters and the Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee aware of your work.

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