Members of the city council in Billings, Mont., are hoping its revised camping ordinance will extend a “welcome to Billings” sign to owners of recreational vehicles. At the same time, local merchants say the regulations give them the tools to shoo away RV owners who overstay their welcome.
The Billings Gazette reported that the cornerstone of the new RV camping ordinance, approved on first reading Monday (March 13), is a 10-hour rest period that allows RV owners to stay temporarily in private parking lots.
An ad hoc committee that studied the issue over several months had recommended a six-hour rest period. But the council decided that a longer rest period would be easier to enforce and would save RV owners from heading back on the road before they’re fully rested.
“The consensus of the committee was a six-hour stay,” said committee member Mike Gast, who is communications director of Billings-based Kampgrounds of America. “If that’s not long enough, it’s up to the city council to decide.”
The ordinance, and the amendment, will be considered on second reading in two weeks.
The city’s effort to limit illegal camping has been the talk of the RV community for months. Last summer RV owners from across the country threatened to boycott Billings after the city began enforcing its RV camping ordinance, which has been on the books since 1967.
The earlier ordinance outlawed RV camping within the city limits except in licensed campgrounds. The ordinance had been largely ignored until the summer of 2004 when the owners of local RV parks complained to the city about large number of RV owners camping illegally at the city’s two Wal-Mart parking lots.
Campground owners argued that they were losing business and Billings is losing bed tax revenue because of the illegal camping.