laurel ridge golf 2.JPG

NOT ON PAR — The now-scuttled idea of a luxury motorcoach resort would have flanked hole No. 5 on the Laurel Ridge golf course, requiring the fairway design to be altered.

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The Waynesville Planning Board voted unanimously Monday night to ban any new campgrounds and RV parks in the town limits.

The recommendation will be passed along to the Waynesville town board, which will hold a public hearing before deciding whether to enact the ban.

The move was prompted by an outcry among residents in and around Laurel Ridge Country Club over the prospect of a luxury RV park on the golf course. The idea an RV park at Laurel Ridge was merely exploratory and country club owners say the idea has since been nixed.

Issue prompted review

But the controversy it sparked begged the question: where, if anywhere, should RV parks and campgrounds be allowed in Waynesville?

The issue came to the town board’s attention earlier this month when residents of Laurel Ridge showed up at a town meeting to voice concerns.

Campgrounds — and presumably those catering to RVs — are currently allowed within residential neighborhoods under the town’s zoning rules.

This came as a revelation to town board members, who asked the planning board to look into it. The planning board was likewise surprised to learn the town’s current zoning rules would allow campgrounds pretty much anywhere.

“I just don’t think an RV place or campground should be in the city limits,” Planning Board Member Bucky Dykes said. “I think the more appropriate place for that type of activity is in the county.”

That view will come as welcome news to Laurel Ridge homeowners. While no plans for an RV park were formally submitted to the town, the owners of Laurel Ridge Country Club hired a surveyor in July to develop a mock-up for a 38-site RV park flanking the fifth fairway.

The surveyor’s diagram was anonymously stuck in homeowners’ mailboxes in late August, touching off a firestorm.

“It has been a nightmare for all of us living around there for the past month,” said Marjorie Bogart, who lives along the fifth fairway. “To me, it would be a horrible thing to have in your backyard. I don’t want to have RVs back there with diesel engines making all kinds of noise 25 to 30 feet from my house.”

Now on the radar

The sweeping allowance for campgrounds under town zoning rules had gone unnoticed as it was tucked into a long list of acceptable outdoor recreation uses — including playgrounds, greenways, batting cages, tennis courts, riding stables, swimming pools and so on.

Town Planner Byron Hickox said the big tent of outdoor recreation is an “overly-broad definition” that warrants clarification, calling the ordinance “a little lagging.”

Hickox proposed a slew of new definitions that parsed out campgrounds, camping cabins, RV parks, park models and travel trailers, borrowing language from Maggie Valley’s zoning rules.

One of the complexities is how to classify RV parks where people stay for months at a time as semi-permanent residences. Occupancy could be limited to a certain number of nights, but it would be hard to enforce.

“Is a member of our staff going to drive by every day and write down who appears to be staying overnight at each one?” Hickox asked.

That wasn’t the only concern, however.

“Could a campground become a homeless shelter?” asked Planning Board Chair Susan Teas Smith.

Before going too far down the rabbit hole of definitions, planning board members decided it was a moot point as none of it seemed compatible in town.

“I don’t think campgrounds, whether they have RV hookups or not, should be allowed in residential districts,” said Planning Board Member Don McGowan.

Planning Board Member Ginger Hain said there is no lack of private campgrounds or campgrounds on public land elsewhere in Haywood County.

“So it’s not like we would be limiting them,” Hain said.

Next: town board

There are currently no campgrounds or RV parks in the Waynesville town limits. Lake Junaluska has one just outside the town limits, however, that lies within the town’s extraterritorial planning jurisdiction.

It would not be impacted by new zoning rules banning future campgrounds.

The town board will have the final say on the ban recommended by the planning board.

The town board must hold a public hearing first, and the earliest timeline for doing so would likely be at its meeting on Oct. 27.

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