By Max Durbin, F76454
Chairman, Governmental And Legislative Affairs Committee
Occasionally we learn that an FMCA member has successfully dealt with and resolved a motorhome parking rights problem. These situations make good object lessons for the rest of us. One such case has just been brought to a favorable conclusion, and I believe it needs to be shared. I will tell the story much as it was presented to me over the years.
In the mid-1990s Ralph and Annette Lund, F112863, decided they would soon retire. They owned a home in New York where they were able to park their motorhome on the property. Their dream was to find a suitable residence in the Southeast, preferably near the seacoast, where they could park their motorhome nearby during the winter and return to New York for the summer.
As the Lunds investigated various residential communities that met their criteria, they became aware of a national company’s development in South Carolina. This company had a good reputation based on its projects in several different states. Both Ralph and Annette liked the climate and the area, so they examined the project thoroughly.
It was a brand-new undertaking, with the sales office located in a trailer on the site. The complex was being constructed in the form of a community unit development (condominium/community association).
Ralph asked a salesperson whether there would be a place to park and store motorhomes within the complex. The salesperson didn’t have an immediate answer, but the next day Ralph was told that an RV parking lot dedicated to that purpose would be available, although the specific RV storage site might change as the complex continued to be developed.
Ralph wasn’t overly concerned, because they had a New York prospectus that detailed the offering, and they had obtained it prior to making their down payment. The prospectus mentioned a parking area for the storage of recreational vehicles. Based on these assurances, the couple proceeded with their lot purchase and ordered the construction of a home.
When the new winter home was finished, the Lunds took up residence and parked their motorhome in a nearby RV park’s storage area. When they discussed the matter with their sales representative, they were told that the complex’s RV storage lot was forthcoming.
Some time later (more than a year), upon the urging of other RV and boat owners, the developer completed a storage lot for the residents. Upon the owners making a nominal payment to the community association, the manager gave out keys to resident RV owners so that they could gain access to the lot and park their equipment.
The parking spaces were not marked, and as a result, the lot was poorly utilized. The management of the community association asked the people using the lot to move their equipment so the area could be properly marked off, thus creating more space for the vehicles.
During a meeting, the RV owners discovered that no employee had RV lot experience to do this work, so the group organized the talents of various members who used their experience to mark the parking spaces and then manage the lot. This work was done by volunteers. The project manager had estimated that the actual on-site work would require four days, but because Ralph’s coworker, Scotty Eisele, F145593, had the project so well organized, it was done in four hours.
Approximately 25 residents who owned boats and RVs decided to form a club. These people knew that as a group they could achieve more with the developer than they could as individuals.
Sure enough, shortly after this, the general manager of the development notified the RV owners that the land available for parking RVs probably would be eliminated prior to completion of the project because of the construction of houses on the site. The general manager suggested that RV owners find privately owned RV parking facilities in nearby communities.
Ralph and his fellow RV owners’ club members protested vigorously. Ralph and Scotty were told by the second general manager (general managers changed several times in the period of this story) that the developer never had any intention of providing a permanent RV storage site, but they might look around for a piece of land nearby that might work for this purpose. Shortly afterward, this manager was replaced.
It was at this point early in 2000 that Ralph contacted FMCA for advice and assistance. After I consulted with him, Ralph notified the development’s general manager that the brochures distributed in New York mentioned that on-site parking of recreational vehicles would be available.
A former salesperson who had since retired was asked to write a letter explaining how, during the first month of sales, the general manager had told sales associates words they could use to assure their clients that a permanent site probably would be in place prior to the first resident moving in. In addition, the Lunds’ sales representative, also no longer working at the development, was still in the area and able to give a statement verifying that the information provided by this letter was correct.
The club collected 30 individual letters from resident RV and/or boat owners stating that their salesperson had told them that a permanent storage lot would be made available for their equipment. They also obtained a letter written to a resident RV owner from the first general manager noting that a permanent RV storage lot would be part of the property.
At about this time, the developer replaced that general manager with an individual who flatly denied that the developer ever had any intention of providing the parking. Ralph and Scotty furnished him with the proof they had obtained. He did promise to bring the matter to the attention of the corporate board. This he did do, and he announced at a property owners’ meeting that the developer was going to build a new permanent boat and RV storage lot. It was uncertain as to when this would be done, but surely by 2002. Shortly afterward, this manager was replaced.
The current manager arrived, and in a meeting with Ralph and Scotty he also noted that the developer never intended to build a permanent parking lot for the boats and RVs. They then provided him with their materials with statements to the contrary, and the manager said he would get back to them.
Meanwhile, Ralph and Scotty decided to work with the community association to solve these and other RV and boat issues in the development. Their suggestions, accepted by the community association, were presented to the RV club members. The RVers voted that Ralph and Scotty should continue to be the voice of the RV club, and they (the membership) would not interfere or negotiate individually with the community association on RV parking matters.
Ralph, Scotty, and other colleagues in the RV club decided to attend a meeting of all the complex owners to try to gain more backing in their quest for a permanent RV parking site. At this point they found substantial resistance on the part of many of the non-RV owners. It seemed that some owners had objected to the parking of motorhomes and boats in front of their homes. Some objected that empty parking lots were used for RV parking. It was apparent that help from other residents was not going to be available.
All of the association representatives Ralph talked to agreed that if the developer had proceeded with the RV parking lot project as promised by the former project manager, the necessary support would have been forthcoming.
Members of the RV club were undaunted and renewed their discussions with the current general manager about the need for the dedicated RV parking area. Shortly after this general meeting of the owners, the general manager notified Ralph and Scotty that the corporate board had authorized the construction of several parking sites for the use of visitors to the community. This property would be part of the amenities of the complex, managed by the boat and RV club, subject to the control of the community association, but owned by the project developer.
Although excited about the announcement, Ralph and his colleagues were again frustrated because of the length of time necessary to prepare the land and construct the site. The club was asked to help with the design, and the project became one of cooperation between the developer and the club members. Most of the suggestions were accepted to save construction costs and to assure quality, upscale parking.
The developer agreed to include six spaces with sewer, water, and 50-amp hookups at a reasonable price, to be paid by visiting travelers, whether they were guests of residents or the sales center. A 70-foot-long covered wash station for RVs and boats was to be constructed. Boat sites would have electricity available to charge trolling motor batteries, and electric power would be provided every 100 feet to charge RV batteries. A central sewer dump station also was included in the plans. During this time details were worked out as to how visitors to the complex were to be handled, as well as the allocation of parking spots for the resident RV owners.
Ultimately a site was selected, cleared, leveled, constructed, and enclosed by a chain-link fence. Several weeks after the first RV moved into the parking lot, the developer transferred ownership of this property to the community association, thus assuring the owners of a permanent amenity for the community.
These events occurred over a period of approximately nine years. That it reached a successful conclusion can be attributed only to the determination of Ralph and Annette Lund; Scotty Eisele; and the boat and RV club. The Lunds’ persistence and refusal to accept “no”; their ability to overcome adversity; and their willingness to spend the needed time and energy paid off. Not only were they able to achieve their goal of having a permanent storage site for their motorhome, but they also made certain that it was available for their fellow RV club members.
For the past several years Ralph has been a volunteer on the Governmental and Legislative Affairs subcommittee, which was created to support FMCA members needing assistance in parking rights cases. He is an inspiration to us all, and as a result of his efforts he has been asked to head up this subcommittee’s activities in South Carolina.
It is well-known that Family Motor Coach Association is a member-owned organization, which utilizes volunteers in many of its endeavors. Ralph, Annette, and Scotty accomplished the successes in this story as volunteers.
More info links
FMCA.com Motorhome Rights