LUBA Prohibits RVs as Permanent Dwellings in Tillamook County

Orlando Illegal Water Use from Bummer Creek on Former Property. November 2016. Courtesy WRD

RVs can no longer be permanent dwellings in Tillamook County, unless in a mobile home park. For decades the County had been issuing permits for applicants to live in their recreational Vehicles (RVs) as permanent dwellings on rurally-zoned land outside of designated RV parks. This practice, while widespread, had never been challenged, despite the many problems. People parking an RV on a private plot of land usually have no septic system whatsoever, and rely on pumping — or even dumping the raw sewage into a convenient nearby stream. Tillamook County has no code enforcement officers, and so cannot police sewage disposal problems. Other concerns include water supply for people living in RVs, access to emergency services, the danger of using generators in forested areas, especially in summer, and the tendency for RVs to quickly deteriorate in the rainy coastal weather.

In about August 2015, Cris and Evan Orlando moved to a plot of land on Bummer Creek in Tillamook County, and began to live in their RV and a cargo pod. Trash accumulated, the Orlandos illegally took water via hose from Bummer Creek, and there were no sanitary facilities. Neighbors complained. The Orlandos responded by selling the parcel and moving to another, more forested and very remote, up a hill off Beaver Creek Road. They lived there without any permits at all from December 2016 to June 2017. Finally the Orlandos applied for a permit to make the RV a permanent dwelling at the new location, and the County’s approval was appealed by the neighbors. The County approved it again, and ORCA took it to the Land Use Board of Appeals. LUBA reversed — which they only do when a local government is acting contrary to its own or the state’s legal requirements. Tillamook County may no longer allow RVs as permanent dwellings outside of mobile home parks.

For decades, Tillamook County ignored their own land use ordinances. The Tillamook County code allows RVs to be used as temporary dwellings under a variety of circumstances, but never as permanent dwellings. The County claimed that, given the magnitude of the affordable housing crisis, it was necessary and appropriate to issue permits for RV residency in rural areas. But this is a red herring. The affordable housing problem is very real, but it cannot be solved by allowing applicants to reside in RV’s all over the countryside. That simply endangers the public health and safety by allowing unregulated waste disposal and water use in rural areas, as well as endangering the health of occupants, who have no access to emergency or other necessary services. Now, Tillamook County will no longer be able to use RVs as an excuse to avoid grappling with workforce housing problems in rural areas.

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