Campground owners lobby for passage of amended campground regulations

Published 9:21 am Monday, April 18, 2016

Earlier this year the Carter County Planning Commission approved amendments to the Carter County Campground Regulations that will make the rules less restrictive. These amended regulations are scheduled to come before the Carter County Commission for a vote when it meets Monday at 6 p.m. at the Carter County Courthouse.

Lobbying for the changes are Steve and Kat Stevenson of Elizabethton, who plan to develop a campground in Roan Mountain on land they own. “We need 13 commissioners to vote for this amendment so that campgrounds like ours can begin the process of bringing lodging for tourists back to Carter County. No new campgrounds have been permitted in the six years since the creation of this ordinance,” the Stevensons wrote in a letter to the STAR.

The amendments approved by the planning commission in February were proposed after some prospective campground developers, including the Stevensons, complained they were too restrictive and the development of campgrounds in the county was discouraged. The proposed amendments make the regulations less stringent for developers.

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The amendments included reducing the minimum size of a campground from five acres to two acres. The minimum size for each camp space in a campground was reduced from 1,500 square feet to 800 square feet. The distance between camping spaces was reduced from 50 feet to 10 feet.

Stevenson said before amendments were made to the campground regulations they were twice as restrictive as the national average.

Planner Steve Pierce, who voted for the less restrictive measures, said the regulations were passed at a time of conflict between a campground on Watauga Lake and homeowners in Butler. He said the regulations were too restrictive and warned that if they were not relaxed, the development of campgrounds in the county would stop.

Mayor Leon Humphrey, who opposed the amended regulations argued that the regulations were developed to protect homeowners and to keep the value of their properties from being lowered by campgrounds developed near them.

Stevenson said under the current campground ordinance, their 11-acre property would only be allowed to have 10 campsites for RVs and about 3 cabins. “This is due to the layout of our property and due to many of the restrictions in the ordinance. We cannot afford to build and improve upon our campground with the income from so few sites,” he wrote.

The Stevensons said they hope to make their campground a vacation experience that people will remember and return to by adding on-site activities  such as zip lines, trails, fishing, nature classes, foraging classes, volleyball, disk golf, exercise trail, rock climbing, outdoor wood fired oven, swimming, outdoor movie night, horseshoes, bush craft classes, recreational areas, hammock sites, outdoor cooking competitions, pot luck dinners, etc.