Too Many Trailers on Property Discussed by Planning Board

Residents with travel trailers and motorhomes may want to be cautious, as concerns over locals with too many trailers on their property have caught the attention of town hall officials.

During the Planning Board’s June 7 meeting, Richard Canuel, the town’s code enforcement officer, came before the board to answer questions concerning a proposed zoning amendment that would limit the number of motor homes and trailers allowed on one’s property.

According to Canuel, there have been a number of enforcement issues regarding residents keeping trailers parked on their properties for extended periods of time. Canuel noted that there were “no regulatory provisions to point to” concerning the number of trailers allowed on one’s property or how long they can be stored there. So, following the recommendation of both the town attorney and town manager, Canuel produced new language for the amendment that was kept purposefully open-ended. Making the ordinance specific would potentially cause further issues that could be difficult to enforce.

The ordinance currently states that no lot in the agricultural residential zone may have more than one unregistered motor vehicle and/or one boat 20 feet or longer outdoors. Canuel proposed adding to the amendment so that it would also concern motor homes, campers, and trailers, as well as forbidding the use of these trailers as accessory living spaces.  Canuel noted that the amendment is not set in stone since is still in its proposal stage.

Board member Giovanni Verani asked Canuel if there was any way the ordinance could be tied into acreage, which Canuel reminded Verani of the reason he originally wished to leave the ordinance open-ended. He explained that he preferred to respond to complaints if the trailers came off as an “unsightly nuisance.” Although Canuel wished to leave the issue up to discretion, Verani noted the dangers of “leaving something open to interpretation.”

Secretary Chris Davies expressed his agreement with some elements of the amendment, such as forbidding living in trailers for an extended period. However, he agreed with Verani about the ambiguity surrounding the amendment’s language and how it may lead to neighborhood disputes. Although Canuel defended the open-endedness of the amendment once again, Vice Chair Mary Wing Soares chimed in, arguing that what Canuel finds unsightly, may not be what she finds unsightly.

Alternate member Peter Commerford then asked whether or not it should be certain that trailers and motor homes cannot be lived in, to which Canuel noted that the ordinance already contains language that confirms this.

Ann Chiampa, also an alternate member, asked Canuel about tiny homes, which only take up between 400 and 1,000 feet, and how they would pertain to the ordinance. Canuel described this as “a whole different animal,” and although they fit the ordinance’s language as an accessory dwelling unit, building codes actually forbid such units.  Chiampa asked what the difference was between tiny homes and travel trailers, to which Canuel noted that tiny homes are typically not carted around like trailers and mobile homes, although Chiampa disputed this.

Chiampa also asked if the ordinance required any setbacks to these units. Canuel noted that there are none at the moment since they are not considered part of the property, but this will most likely be researched in the future.

Once all the board members had spoken, Canuel noted that he would try to alter the amendment’s language to address the concerns of the board, with Chair Art Rugg noting that board members should email Canuel in the future with ideas that would be addressed in upcoming workshops and public hearings.

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