This year, about 40 Florida RV parks and campgrounds have been sold and closed to make way for more profitable developments, according to a report in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Rambler’s Rest RV Park in Venice was recently sold to Chicago-based Equity Lifestyles Inc., the second change in ownership in less than three years.
Though company officials have assured residents that Rambler’s Rest will remain a campground, people with a stake in the RV park remain nervous.
In Southwest Florida, scores of mobile home parks, hotels, apartments and campgrounds have been gobbled up, displacing thousands to make room for condominiums and other developments.
What has neighbors in Rambler’s Rest on edge is that RV owners are largely considered visitors and not residents, and have no legal protection.
“These RV park owners can just kick them out tomorrow. They don’t have to give them any reasons,” said Don Hazelton, spokesman of the Federation of Manufactured Homeowners of Florida.
There are two bills being kicked around in the Florida Legislature – neither seems likely to pass this year – that provide increased protection to owners of mobile and manufactured homes. Both intentionally omit RV owners and park residents.
In fact, passage of those bills might hasten the closure of RV parks and campgrounds.
“This redevelopment is going to continue; we all know that, and it’s easier to go after an RV community. We have protection. They have nothing,” Hazelton said. “But our hands are tied because of the statutes. And it’s unfortunate, because every lifestyle deserves some protections.”
RVs are not homes under state law. The RV owner is not protected because RVs are – by definition – supposed to be easy to move, said Frank Williams, executive director of the Florida Manufactured Housing Association.
But park model RVs, the vast majority of those parked at Rambler’s Rest, are not motorized. In terms of structure and aesthetics, they are more similar to manufactured homes than to traditional RVs. They are also in the same price range as mobile and manufactured homes. About 78 families live at Rambler’s Rest year round.
Despite the fact that the state does not acknowledge them as homeowners, about 500 of the camp’s residents have organized into an association – one intent upon raising capital. If the property goes up for sale again, they are preparing to make an offer.