The Buncombe County Commissioners’ staff reports tell us Ricky Coates most likely will not be allowed to expand his RV business, which is running at capacity, because of countywide zoning. The reasoning is slightly better than circular.

Allow me to explain. Ricky is the boss’ landlord. He runs at least three businesses and employs about 35 people. He is not asking for a government handout with promises of creating jobs and investing in the community. He accomplishes said goals with hard work, industry, and his own money. I’d argue the problem was with a tax code that doesn’t collect as much from rental lots as county leadership would like – except they collect even less from a multitude of nonprofit endeavors they support.

Backtracking further, the maxed-out state of affairs in Ricky’s lot means there is big demand for RV lots this time of year. Running an operation that has to expand to meet demand is a good business model. By all appearances, Ricky is not overextending. A bad business model, which government seems to prefer these days, is a grandiose dream of a big building that needs grants and matches and then still can’t get enough investment to get off the ground.

The report states:

By expanding the allowed uses in the CS district to include the provision of travel trailers and travel trailer parks, recreational and seasonal residential uses may be allowed to take up areas of the county which are designated as higher-traffic sites prime for commercial and mixed-use development.

That is a lame excuse. Ricky might have been instructed to pursue a variance if this were a real problem. Highest and best use is an ideal, hardly applicable to all current uses. Zoning, by definition, is “thinking inside the box.”

Then, the report tells us:

The proposed amendments to the text are neither reasonable nor in the public interest, as in no case should travel trailers be used as permanent dwellings, as these homes do not meet NC Building Code. Through the addition of districts where travel trailers and travel trailer parks are allowed, the use of travel trailers as longer-term housing solutions is promoted, in spite of the hazards to health and public safety that their construction may pose.

Actually, I think most people drive RV’s because they don’t want to settle down permanently. The probability of somebody using the zoning to set up permanent housing is a bit oblique. Many folks who go around in RV’s are tourists, and the TDA spends a lot of money attracting them. Baby boomers and traveling artists are hauling their fifth wheels all around the countryside because they prefer that scene to hotels. Perhaps we’d prefer them to drop their cash in Henderson County.

As for the health hazards, slumlords can own apartment complexes, too. Ricky is not a slumlord. In fact, he just ruined a landscaping masterpiece to put down more pads to keep up with demand. (That was a thinly-veiled plea to save the trees.)

I called Ricky to inquire about the matter. He said it sounded like the wrong staff reports were printed. He thought the hearing tomorrow was going to address another request to allow RV parks on an R3 parcel. In the conversation, he asked if I could tell him why the commissioners would oppose an RV park when they are so gung-ho on tourism. I wanted to say the context was internally inconsistent, so the word “why” was not applicable.