On a trial period, the Sarasota County Commission approved an oridnance that would allow residents to use RVs as accessory units to single family residences.
As hundreds of members of the Amish and Mennonite communities flock to Sarasota over the winter, they now will have a place to stay: their families' and friends' front yard.
With a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners approved an ordinance that would allow members of the Pinecraft community to have one occupied recreational vehicle attached to their single-family home.
The occupied RV would only be allowed from Dec. 1 through March 31, when members of the Amish and Mennonite community have traveled to Sarasota since the early 1900s.
RVs would be allowed to be hooked up to a home’s utility services when they are legally permitted. However, residents are not allowed to rent out the RVs, and RVs are not permitted on a vacant lot.
Some members of the Amish and Mennonite Pinecraft community contend the ordinance will allow their friends and families to stay in a community that follows the same way of life. However, other Pinecraft residents fear the ordinance will create too much density and turn the area into a trailer park.
“We have to consider not just those of us who are Mennonite and Amish,” Pinecraft resident Evelyn Gray said. “The area has become commercialized and it’s not fair to the rest of us. We need more enforcement because these people do not enforce themselves.
However, Pinecraft resident Fred Hershberger said the ordinance allows for easier enforcement because it gives strict regulations to RVs as accessory units.
“The amendment proves we’re not trying to build an RV park because it requires the RV to be an accessory unit to an existing home,” Pinecraft resident Fred Hershberger said. “None of us want an RV park.”
The board also was divided on the issue with members Nancy Detert and Charles Hines voting against the ordinance.
Detert cited concerns that the ordinance would go against the overlay district the board approved in 2018 that adjusted area regulations to accommodate the residents’ way of life.
“All of our other overlays protect a specific criteria. I can’t get my hands around how a 30-foot RV fits into that,” Hines said. “There are going to be other communities that are going to say, ‘I want that too.’ ”
Commissioners approved the ordinance provided stipulations were added that allowed the board to look at the ordinance again after March 2021. If residents followed the rules of the ordinance with minimal code enforcement, commissioners would then consider making the ordinance permanent.
“I think a 3-2 vote sends an exacting and distinct message,” Commissioner Al Maio said. “You barely got it through, so now we must think about how do we manage this in the future?”