Some residents of Spanish Valley called in to the Nov. 3 Grand County Commission meeting to say they were fed up with campers in their neighborhoods, and saying that their complaints to the county hadn’t seen any results.
“I have had several residents of Spanish Valley—Grand County residents—reach out with regards to illegal camping in the Spanish Valley area,” said Emily Campbell, who called in as a private citizen but is also chair of the Grand County planning commission.
Campbell acknowledged that law enforcement departments have a difficult job and are understaffed, but added, “there does seem to be a pattern of people abusing our lack of staff to enforce, to take advantage for illegal camping.”
This past January, the Grand County Commission passed a clarified ordinance which made camping outside of established campgrounds in Grand County more explicitly illegal. [See “What we mean when we say ‘camping’,”Jan. 28 edition. -ed.] Such camping had already been technically illegal, said County Attorney Christina Sloan at the time, but the new ordinance made it easier for officers to enforce the rule.
At the time that the ordinance passed, Sloan emphasized that enforcement would be complaint-based and targeted at nuisance campers. In an Oct. 5 email to the Moab Sun News, Sloan said the county had not cited any camping violations to date.
At the Nov. 3 meeting, Campbell described seeing occupied RVs parked on neighbors’ properties for weeks at a time. She submitted a complaint on Nov. 1, and Sloan told the Moab Sun News that the county’s compliance officer sent a letter on Nov. 4 to the property owner in question with reminders of county codes.
Julianne Waters also lives in Spanish Valley, and she called in with a complaint about a property adjacent to her home. Increased traffic, loose dogs, and increased noise from occupied RVs on a neighboring property have reduced her enjoyment of her property and sense of safety in her home, she said. Waters said she has contacted the county about the issue but was unhappy with how her complaints have been addressed.
In an email to the Moab Sun News, Sloan said the county has investigated Water’s complaints, sending a code compliance officer to the property twice during the day and a sheriff’s deputy to the property twice at night. The property owner has three legal rental agreements with local workers and no evidence of illegal activity was found.
“We’ve put a lot of county resources into that issue, but have found no evidence of illegal activity,” said Sloan. “We can’t regulate the amount of traffic on the easement/driveway in front of her house.”
At the meeting, Grand County Building Inspector Bill Hulse said that the county may begin addressing illegal camping even without receiving a neighborhood complaint with the recent addition of a new code enforcement position.
“I think there is a need to start targeting areas and blanketing neighborhoods with letters,” he said.
Commission Administrator Chris Baird noted that enforcing ordinances is not a simple matter: everyone is entitled to due process.
“We always try to resolve things with letters first,” he said, but added that if it comes to more substantial enforcement, the county also has to collect evidence. The recipient of the citation also has a right to defend themselves against the citation.
“It’s not as easy as just sending somebody down there and having them cease operations immediately,” Baird said.
Sloan noted that “We’re really in the initial education phase. A lot of landowners don’t know what our land use code says… that’s true as to camping.”