County works to regulate influx of RV parks
Last updated 8/8/2023 at 7:06pm
Land is being cleared in spots all across Orange County as investors build parks for recreational vehicles that will be coming for the industrial boom created by the new Chevron Phillips chemical plant. And now, the county will have new regulations to put into effect.
Beginning Monday, any land currently without an RV permit that is being developed will need to meet the new regulations. Existing RV parks, or those under construction with permits, will be "grandfathered" into the new rules. That means they will not need to meet the new rules.
However, if an existing or permitted park expands, the expanded area will need to comply with the new regulations.
All five members of Commissioners Court, when asked about how many RV parks were being planned, spoke at once: "a bunch." "They're all over the place." "Everywhere."
And on Tuesday afternoon, the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new RV park on Turner Road in the Bridge City-Orangefield area.
The new county rules will apply only to the unincorporated areas. Each incorporated city has its own RV rules.
A countywide committee had met earlier this year and recommended new regulations for RV parks. The parks are popular places for construction workers traveling from area to area for new jobs. Many get a per diem expense to cover living expenses and use that money to buy an RV to live in.
Also, an RV in a park with services like water and sewer can provide living quarters for people who can't find a rent house or apartment.
The new $8.5 billion Chevron Phillips Golden Triangle Polymers plant is projected to bring 4,000 construction-related jobs to the area. That plant development is in addition to other refinery and plant expansions in the Golden Triangle area.
The county was set to adopt new regulations earlier this year, but had to wait for the Texas Legislature session to end. The Legislature passed a bill that no local entity like a county or city could pass more strict regulations than the state required. The county had to put its new rules on hold.
However, Assistant County Attorney Denise Gremillion said the county could adopt rules for the health and safety of its citizens. The new rules can fall under that category.
One rule will be setting a minimum width for roadways within an RV park. County Judge John Gothia said the roads must be wide enough for emergency vehicles, like ambulances and fire trucks, to get through. Also, adequate parking needs to be provided for the safety of children playing in an RV park.
Within the past year, a child riding a toy vehicle in an RV park was hit by a car and killed.
Commissioners decided to add a requirement to have a fence around an RV park, even though attorney Gremillion said the rule may not hold up legally if challenged through a court. She said fencing could fall within "health and safety," but the requirement of a privacy fence would not be a matter of health or safety.
Commissioners agreed to let an exception for the fence rule not to require one on a side by a water feature of the park. For instance, one park being currently developed has a side along Cow Bayou, with the waterfront being an attraction to the site.
In other business, the court approved new civil process fees for the sheriff's office, as recommended by Sheriff Lane Mooney. The fees will not begin until January 1. The biggest change will be for livestock fees. Currently, the county charges $50 for the livestock officer to pick up loose animals, plus a holding fee of $35 a day for horses and cattle.
The new fees will be $150 for picking up loose large animals like horses and cattle. That will cover the man hours and fuel the sheriff's office will use to corral the animals. The $35 a day holding fee will remain. Livestock officer Greg Forsyth said he did a survey of Southeast Texas counties from Harris County to Orange and the new fees are in line with other counties in the region. He said the livestock fees have not increased in 15 years.
County road and bridge workers will now be working from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with an early start to beat the heat. Commissioners Court gave County Engineer Corey Oldbury, who oversees the Road and Bridge Department, permission to implement the new hours until August 29, when commissioners will consider again whether an early start is needed.
Oldbury said a committee recommended the earlier hours and three of the county's four precinct crews were coming in early. He said they are getting more work accomplished with the start before the temperatures begin rising.
County Judge John Gothia, though, said another county department then talked about having its employees come to work early and get off early. He said that's when he decided all such requests needed to be approved by Commissioners Court.
The court agreed to the early hours, but is requiring all four precincts to use those hours for road crews. Office workers will continue their regular 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours. The trash collection station will also keep its regular hours.
The court agreed to award a contract for $128,400 to surface the walking trail in Raymond Gould Park in Vidor. The bid is $8,400 more than budgeted for the park. It is still much less than an original bid of $180,000.
Earlier this year, County Judge Gothia said the extra millions of dollars paid by Chevron Phillips for the new plant's building fees would be used to give an extra $100,000 each to the four county-maintained parks with one in each precinct. The $100,000 was added to the $20,000 each park was allocated in the annual county budget.
Other business included the court setting the November 7 state constitutional amendment with early voting at the three regular early voting sites. County Election Administrator Donna Alford said the constitutional amendment election will be the third for the new countywide voting system that allows any registered county voter to vote at any one of the voting sites.