Proposed Woodland RV park brings concerns of crime

Business owners appealing decision to allow 67 lot park off Belmont Loop

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A proposed recreational vehicle park on the northeast side of Woodland is drawing opposition from local business owners, arguing it would lead to increased crime.

During a June 1 appeal hearing for a key permit that would allow for the establishment of the Belmont RV Park off of Belmont Loop, Woodland City Council voted 4-3 to bring the case back to hearings examiner Joe Turner to consider the proposed development’s compatibility with nearby businesses and the potential impacts on crime in the area by the park’s establishment.

If built, the park would feature 67 RV lots with full utility hookups on 3.69 acres, including an office building, showers, laundry and a recreation area.

Turner had initially approved the permit following a March 30 hearing. Following his approval, more than a dozen individuals signed the letter introducing the appeal, stating business owners in the area were “in unanimous agreement that this proposed (RV park) will be deleterious and damaging to the City of Woodland, our property values, businesses and overall safety.”

If built, the park would be housed near the Woodland Veterinary Hospital, Kinderland Daycare, Adair Homes and HiLine Homes offices, and Woodland Automotive and Collision Repair.

At the appeal hearing, Turner said those opposed to the park did not provide evidence to support the claims. He said any development on the site that attracts more people to the area would likely result in an increase in criminal activities, “but there’s no evidence that the proposed use in this case will cause a disproportionate increase in crime greater than other potential commercial uses for this site.”

Turner referenced a statement from Woodland Police Chief Jim Kelly that said the best local analogue didn’t show an increase in crime.

“The city has one RV park in the city limits and there does not seem to be any significant increase in call volume or criminal activity there,” the police chief wrote in an email to community development staff.

The appellants claim that Kelly was misquoted by Turner.

Those opposed to the park also argued property values would drop if the park came in. Turner said code language didn’t take into account the property value impacts alone, though what it does consider could lead to those impacts. He cited case law that impacts to property values could still happen “due to perceptions about the type of use proposed, but not the reality.”

During council deliberation, councilor David Plaza expressed concerns over what Kelly was comparing the RV park to in regard to a “significant increase” in crime.

“Was it compared to the previous year at the park, or was it over the last five years, and compared to which neighborhood?” Plaza asked, adding the definition of significant wasn’t clear.“Do we have to have five murders for it to be a significant crime (increase,) or two carjackings?”

He referred to his experience as a law enforcement officer, including several years working in Woodland.

“I’m not saying that the people at the RV park are all criminals, but I’m saying just statistically and historically, any time you get a group of people together you are going to have a criminal element,” Plaza said.

Plaza said several existing or prospective businesses in the Belmont Loop area indicated they would leave the area if the park went in.

“If these people follow through with what they’re saying, doesn’t that interfere with what we have in our (growth plan for the city?)” Plaza asked.

Plaza voted to return the case to Turner, alongside councilors Monte Smith, Janice Graham, and Carol Rounds. Councilors Benjamin Fredericks, DeeAnna Holland and Karl Chapman voted against the move.

In an email following the meeting, Woodland Community Development Director Travis Goddard said Turner will have a remand hearing July 8. The case will be brought back to council for further consideration July 19.

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