Moundsville Volunteer Fire Department’s Plan To Set Up RV Park Divides City Council

MOUNDSVILLE — A divided city council voted narrowly to grant the Moundsville Volunteer Fire Department a zone change to set up a recreational vehicle park behind its building.

Attorney Rich Wilson, who represents the VFD, said the department had eyed bringing in the RV park as a source of revenue, to fund ongoing maintenance, repairs and upgrades to equipment, as well as the ever-present certification and training required.

“Expertise, training, certifications — the cost for that training itself has gone up exponentially because fire departments, now, their response has expanded beyond just responding to fires,” Wilson said. “Hazmat, rescues, confined spaces — there’s a number of certifications, and that all requires training. The demands on a fire department … (have led to) their costs going up.”

Wilson stressed that the revenue coming as a result of the RV park would be strictly put toward the betterment of the department, and not as “a cash grab.”

“The costs have increased exponentially,” he said. “The volunteers are a not-for-profit. You have very strict limitations on what they can expend on as a not-for-profit. Those include upkeep, maintenance, buildings, equipment, trucks and training.”

The proposed RV park, Wilson said, would accommodate around 22-25 RVs, with the area enclosed by a 10-foot wall wrapped in vinyl. The park would go near the corner of Walnut and Fostoria avenues, which is currently an empty field. Part of the area is currently occupied by portable toilets.

Wilson provided cost projections for the construction of the site and the wall. He estimated it at $3,100 per site, including utilities, ground work and labor, with total site prep to cost between $68,200 and $77,500. The wall enclosing the park would cost an additional $20,648 to $41,000, coming in at a maximum cost of $118,500. Wilson said the VFD would be on the hook for these costs, which would not be passed on to the city.

An estimated income that the park would bring in was not yet known, as the utility costs were not immediately available.

Wilson said the RV park would, ideally, provide a location for local residents to invite relatives to stay for periods of time to visit local tourist sites, such as Grand Vue Park, or the park instead may see oil and gas workers living there.

“It depends what the demands are and what the availability is,” he said.

Wilson said he was aware that members of the public had spoken out against the decision but that he hopes the differences with the VFD’s park — particularly the wall and the lack of on-street parking — would serve to mitigate concerns of neighbors. Additionally, residency at the RV park would include a questionnaire and a reference check — not quite a background check, Wilson admitted, but hopefully ample enough to weed out bad apples.

“People had concerns about the sightliness, so we went ahead with the fencing with the wrap. … The law enforcement safety issues — we’ve used the controlled access, a pre-lease questionnaire. I venture to say the volunteers have gone much further than other entities in the area that have installed or constructed an RV site, in terms of responding to the citizens.”

On first reading, council voted 5-2 to pass the ordinance changing the zoning of the area, with Ginger DeWitt, Dave Wood, Sara Wood, Phil Remke and Gene Saunders voting in favor and Judy Hunt and Dave Haynes voting against. On second reading, however, the measure passed 4-3, with Saunders changing his vote to side with the opposition.

Saunders could not be reached for comment regarding the change in his vote.

The zoning changed from mixed use to recreation/conservation, which City Manager Rick Healy said was initially pitched as a temporary adjustment. City Attorney Tom White, however, said it would be a permanent change.

“This could hurt the fire department sometime down the line, when there’s no more use for RVs and they want to do something different there,” Healy said.

The change in zoning shifts what structures or uses are permitted on that area of land. Its original permitted uses were for restaurants, residences and convenience stores; its new uses include group residences, agriculture and parks.

No time frame for the RV park was set.

COMMENTS