Planning New Rules Carefully

Community leaders in Belmont were right this week when they resisted a knee-jerk reaction to the presence of natural gas workers in the village.

Village Council heard from residents Tuesday who were concerned about the appearance of camping trailers on a few lots in town – temporary homes for pipeliners and others working in the region as part of the shale boom. Although the residents were alarmed about the arrival of these strangers, council members and Mayor Richard Thompson approached the issue with caution.

Any ordinance restricting the presence of such vehicles in the village would require a 90-day period in which three public readings would be held, they pointed out. But village leaders also have other factors to consider before implementing new rules related to campers.

First, some residents are benefiting from the workers’ presence. They are able to rent space on their properties – up to three sites per lot – to those who need temporary housing, putting money in local pockets. After all, everyone in the Upper Ohio Valley hopes to reap some of the financial benefits of the gas rush, so why should Belmont residents be denied that opportunity?

Another concern is how the village itself can gain revenue from these new, temporary residents. While they may pay for the water and sewage service they will receive, Thompson said the village has no authority to tax the individuals living in the campers unless there is a concrete slab in place at the site. That means those individuals will not contribute money for fire and police protection.

If Village Council does decide to craft legislation related to campers being set up within corporation limits, members should focus on how to ensure the occupants of those RVs pay their fair share.