Bedford County, Va., campground owners, especially those around the popular Smith Mountain Lake southeast of Roanoke, have found themselves victims of an overreaching county zoning ordinance, according to the Lynchburg News & Advance.
Mitchell’s Point Marina and Campground in Huddleston is a good example. It offers trailer sites for nearly 100 campers and their families. Those families – who have become regulars at the campground over the years – come from as far away at West Virginia and North Carolina to spend summer weekends relaxing near the lake shoreline.
Some of them stretch those weekends into longer stays, which is fine with campground owner Tom Buck whose annual leases allow guests to come whenever they want and stay as long as they want.
But that could be changing. Someone discovered that the Bedford County zoning ordinance restricts the number of nights those families can spend at the lake – or any other campground – to 30 per calendar year. The ordinance also requires campground owners to record the length of their stay.
George Nester, director of the county’s department of community development, suggested one reason for the 30-night limit was to prevent homesteading, which could allow a camper to designate the property as his home.
While factors for setting limits vary from county to county, Nester pointed out that Bedford has growth issues that come into play. “We’re becoming more of a tourist attraction,” he said.
The newspaper suggested that the campers should be just as welcome in Bedford County as those who spend thousands of dollars a week renting lakefront houses or condominiums. Buck said enforcing the zoning ordinance could hurt his lease agreements and would damage the possibility of selling sites to his campers, something he is considering.
David Gorin, executive director for the Virginia Campground Association, said he thinks the 30-day limit is uncommon across the state. He said that many campgrounds are going to seasonal camping from April to October and that the Bedford limit of 30 nights would make such camping unavailable in Bedford.
“It makes no sense to restrict a business from serving its customers when the customers want to come,” Gorin added.
Lynn Barnes, who represents the Huddleston district on the county planning commission, said he supports increasing the annual limit up to 180 days. Barnes said the family-friendly camping lifestyle is important to Bedford County’s future because its campgrounds are being overtaken by other development. The 30-day limit, he said, is “just unreasonably short and we need to open it up and make it reasonable.”