Porch enclosure issue revisited at Commissioners’ meeting

(Sept. 20, 2013) Bali Hi campers will have the opportunity to tell the Worcester County Commissioners why they should be permitted to enclose their porches with soft plastic instead of insect screening, the only material now allowed.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the county commissioners, two of the commissioners, President Bud Church and Madison Bunting, said they wanted to put their names on the requested text amendment that would permit the soft plastic porch enclosures at cooperative campgrounds. In August, none of the commissioners put their name on it, but Church and Bunting said the people requesting the change should be able to speak about the issue during a public hearing.

“I think the folks who want to have their case heard, in my opinion, they have the right to be heard,” Church said.

Bunting said there had been “no chance for the people to plead their case.” He also mentioned the expense incurred by the Bali Hi campers, who hired attorney Mark Cropper to represent them.

Commissioner Judy Boggs strenuously objected to the change.

“No one wanted to put their name on the bill [in August],” Boggs said. “I think it’s a waste of time and money when we’ve done it before, ad nauseum.”

Boggs was so adamant in her objection that she asked county attorney Sonny Bloxom if it was even legal to proceed with a public hearing. Bloxom assured her that it was legal and that no votes had been taken, so the bill did not get introduced.

“They do it in the General Assembly all the time,” Bloxom said.

Nevertheless, Boggs made a motion to not go forward with a public hearing because of the “waste of time and money,” but her motion failed to get a second, so the public hearing will be held. It is scheduled for Oct. 15.

“I am pleased that the commissioners have reconsidered the matter and will give interested parties the opportunity to be heard regarding the merits of this proposed text amendment,” Cropper said.

The commissioners starting discussing enclosed porches nearly 10 years ago when the county approved legislation permitting cooperative campgrounds. That legislation permits only insect screening on porches.

“Other than the wall adjacent to the recreational vehicle, recreational park trailer or cabin, the wall area of porches shall be enclosed by insect screening only,” the county zoning regulations state. “Porches shall not be enclosed with glass panels, plastic film, roll plastic or plastic sheathing, windows, solid walls or any other enclosure devices or methods.”

During past discussions, the commissioners have been concerned that those other materials could lead to people using their porches as additional to their campers, recreational vehicles or trailers and making the campground units a step closer to permanent residences, which the county does not permit in cooperative campgrounds.

Safety is an additional concern. During the commissioners’ July 16 meeting, Fire Marshal Jeff McMahon said using soft plastic instead of insect screening would be hazardous because the soft plastic would hold in smoke and heat, which dissipate when insect screening is used.

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