Cowlitz County (Washington) commissioners have given the green light to an updated code that streamlines the process for campground and RV park owners to add additional spaces.
This decision marks a pivotal moment for the county’s outdoor recreation sector, particularly benefiting private campground owners and RV park operators.
The previous regulations, which amalgamated planning and health guidelines, have been bifurcated into distinct sections.
This separation aims to elucidate compliance and enforcement, thereby simplifying the process for campground owners and operators. This move is expected to enhance the clarity of the regulatory landscape, making it easier for owners to navigate.
Cowlitz County, known for its picturesque landscapes and outdoor recreational opportunities, boasts 26 campgrounds in its unincorporated areas, with a majority of 18 being locally owned. The revised health codes will also be applicable to three other facilities located within city limits.
The county has been witnessing a steady interest from developers in this sector. On average, there is one pre-application meeting held per month for the establishment of new RV parks, indicating a robust growth potential in this area.
Under the previous regulations, adding new spaces necessitated an existing park to undergo a comprehensive permitting process, which included scrutiny by the hearing examiner.
However, the updated planning code has eased this process, allowing staff to review an increase of up to five spaces. This change is expected to significantly expedite the expansion process for existing parks.
The Planning Commission gave its nod to a draft of the new development code in October 2022. Subsequently, in March, the Board of Health deliberated and approved the updated sanitation code.
One of the most noteworthy changes in the new health code is the elimination of the requirement for an annual operating permit. Instead, the department will shift its focus toward inspections. Campgrounds will be subject to at least one inspection annually, if not more, in addition to investigations prompted by complaints.
In a move that is likely to be welcomed by private property owners, the new code has also raised the limit on the number of lived-in RVs a private property owner can have on their land without undergoing the permitting process.
The limit has been increased from one to two, although these property owners will still be subject to other health codes.
This regulatory update is a significant step forward in making Cowlitz County a more RV-friendly destination. It not only simplifies the expansion process for existing campgrounds and RV parks but also encourages the establishment of new ones.
As the county continues to attract outdoor enthusiasts, these changes are expected to stimulate local businesses and contribute to the growth of the local economy.