The fate of a proposed recreational vehicle park in the town of Halifax still is undecided, as Halifax Town Council mulls the question of a time limit on guests’ stay at the park.
Council at its Tuesday evening meeting postponed taking action on Toots Creek Antique Mall owner Dean Jones’ special use permit application for Toots Creek RV Park, following a public hearing in which Jones spoke in favor of the park and three people spoke against it.
Although council has not yet made a final decision on the RV park, one obstacle standing in Jones’ way was cleared. Council voted in favor of amendments to the town’s zoning ordinance to allow RV parks in a C-1 commercial zoning district with a special use permit.
“I’m pleased with the point that they decided to accept RV parks in a C-1 commercial zone. That’s the biggest hurdle to overcome,” Jones said after the council meeting. “They seem to think the park will be an asset to the town.”
Pending council approval, Jones plans to open the RV park on his land adjacent to Toots Creek Antique Mall at 5289 Halifax Road.
Councilman Malcolm Bowen made the motion to amend the zoning ordinance, and the motion carried in a 5-1 vote, with Vice-Mayor Gail Bosiger casting the only dissenting vote.
“If we approve the amendments, is it going to open up the potential for other RV parks to pop up in the town of Halifax,” Bosiger questioned.
As council prepared to take a final vote on Jones’ special use permit application for the RV park, Bowen made a motion to remove the 90-day time limit for occupants’ stay at the park within one calendar year recommended by the Halifax Planning Commission.
“It seems too restrictive,” Bowen commented, noting he had researched several other RV parks in the region and none of them had time limits on guests’ stay.
Bowen’s motion failed in a 4-3 vote, with Mayor Dexter Gilliam casting the tiebreaking vote. Councilman Jack Dunavant and councilwoman Janice Powell voted in favor of the motion, while Gilliam, Bosiger, councilman Jonathan Thackston and councilman Bill Covington voted against.
After council voted down Bowen’s motion, Bosiger asked Jones, “Is there a time limit that would make you happy?”
Jones replied that he would be agreeable to a five-year time limit on guests’ stay at the RV park.
Dunavant then asked if council could propose and vote on a new time limit for RV park guests’ occupancy different than the planning commission’s 90-day recommendation. Gilliam replied he was unsure of the correct way to proceed on the matter, since council had voted against the original motion to remove the time limit in the conditions of the application. Bosiger made a motion to table the matter until council determined the correct way to proceed.
“We will come back with a decision, but we want to get it right,” Gilliam told those gathered at the meeting.
During the public hearing on the RV park, Halifax resident Mike Sexton urged council not to approve the RV park without placing a time limit on occupants’ stay.
“Recreational vehicles are not necessarily a concern, but long-term squatting is a concern,” Sexton told council. “When you put that many people together in an environment where they can stay as long as they want, I have some concerns. I don’t have a problem with squatting; I just don’t think it belongs in our town.”
Karen Schopen, co-owner/operator of Molasses Grill, spoke out against the RV park.
“In my mind, I don’t know how it can’t be seen for what it is: a trailer park on wheels,” Schopen said.
When she and her husband Steven decided to open their fine dining restaurant in the town of Halifax nearly 20 years ago, she said they made the decision because they saw that Halifax was a town in the process of “rebuilding itself.” But today’s proposal to open an RV park in the town of Halifax has her questioning the town leaders’ vision for its future.
“This is not what we envisioned,” Schopen stated. “It is discouraging that our perception that Halifax is a forward-thinking community is potentially a falsehood.”
If town council votes in favor of opening the RV park, Schopen said she and her husband might have to rethink whether or not they will continue to operate their restaurant in the town of Halifax.
Halifax resident Miles Perkins also expressed his opposition to the RV park, in support of Schopen.
At Tuesday’s meeting, council also took action on the following items:
• Authorized an Industrial Revitalization Fund planning grant agreement with Hill Studio PC for the Halifax Exxon-Main Street Plaza redevelopment project feasibility study. The town of Halifax was awarded a $100,000 IRF planning grant for the project;
• Authorized a ChangeX alleyway project construction award, subject to final bid analysis, securing of permits and construction/maintenance agreement; and
• Approved a resolution honoring the public service of the late Halifax Town Council member H.C Phillips Sr. for future presentation to Phillips’ family.
Halifax Police Chief Stuart Comer also presented a DUI enforcement excellence award to officer Bowen after giving his monthly police department report. Comer shared that Bowen made a total of nine DUI arrests last year.