Neighbors of Steve DeLee in the subdivision have objected to the 5-wheel owned by his in-laws that is parked for long periods of time at his home for the past two years.
DeLee’s in-laws use the large fifth wheel as their home as they travel the country. They spend long periods of time in Plymouth during and help the DeLee’s with childcare during the summer while continuing to live in their trailer.
About a year and a half ago Terry Borggren had brought complaints before the Plan Commission before seeking that the trailer be moved from the home. His complaint was based on the the fact that he felt property values were negatively affected by the constant presence of the trailer.
His complaints – along with others from various other locations around the city of Plymouth – led the Plan Commission to change the language of the city zoning ordinance in the last year regarding RV’s.
Plymouth zoning has always prohibited living in an RV for more than eight weeks a year outside of a designated camping facility, earlier in the year the Commission had clarified the term “lived in” to mean slide outs extended on the trailer, and or it’s being hooked up to electric or septic service.
Plymouth Zoning also does not allow for two residences on one property.
Some Commission members and Plymouth Plan Director Ralph Booker questioned if the Plan Commission was the proper body to hold a hearing on the subject.
Plymouth City Attorney Sean Surrisi stated that a state statute called the “Home Rule Act” holds that if the state of Indiana does not specifically spell out how a situation should be addressed that local municipalities are allowed to assume the powers necessary to govern their jurisdictions.
Since the state has no statute governing the habitation of recreational vehicles – Surrisi said the Plan Commission could rule on the subject of a Zoning violation.
With Surrisi’s advice the Plymouth Plan Commission chose to hold the first ever such hearing.
Borggren presented evidence to the Commission that the slide-outs and hook-ups of the fifth wheel had been in place since June 15.
DeLee stated that food in the refrigerator of the fifth wheel necessitated electricity and having the slide-outs open on the trailer were to keep it aired out. He said that he and his family were trying to stay within the zoning ordinance but had been unaware of it until this year.
He also stated the trailer had not been occupied the full time since June 15 and that currently his in-laws were visiting with another family member in Virginia.
The Commission unanimously felt that DeLee was in violation of the ordinance but questioned what – if any – action they could or should take.
Commission member Fred Webster made a motion to defer a decision on appropriate action to Building Commissioner Keith Hammonds saying that he did not want to set a precedent for the Plan Commission acting on such matters. The motion did not receive enough votes for approval.
Member Greg Compton then made a motion to defer action to Hammonds but with the recommendation of the Commission being that he have the RV removed from the property.
Debate than ensued over whether that action could be taken since the ordinance says only that a trailer cannot be lived in for more than eight weeks, not that it cannot be stored on the property for as long as desired.
Compton’s motion did not receive enough votes to pass.
Commission Member Mark Gidley than made a motion that the Commission accept the responsibility to make the ruling themselves and cite DeLee for two violations – one for living in a recreational vehicle for more than eight weeks and a second for having two residences on one property – and that the fifth wheel be removed from the property in one week.
The Commission voted unanimously for Gidley’s motion.