Cowlitz County commissioners OK updated campground code

Campground and RV park owners can more easily add spaces after the Cowlitz County commissioners Tuesday approved the updated code.

The commissioners also split the previous campground code, which combined planning and health regulations, into separate sections to clarify compliance and enforcement.

In unincorporated areas, the county has 26 campgrounds, with 18 locally owned, said senior planner Adam Trimble.

Health codes also apply to three other facilities within city limits, Season Long, environmental health manager, said during a January Board of Health meeting. Most are a mix of tents and RV sites, he said.

Cowlitz County reviews making it easier to expand RV parks

The department sees ongoing interest from developers, with an average of one pre-application meeting per month for new RV parks, Trimble said.

In 2021, the county commissioners directed staff to begin the code update process because the existing rules made it difficult for campgrounds to expand, Trimble said.

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Previously, to add new spaces, the code required an existing park to go through the full permitting process, including consideration by the hearing examiner, Trimble said. The new planning code allows staff to review an increase of five or fewer spaces.

The Planning Commission approved a draft of the new development code in October 2022.

In March, the Board of Health discussed and approved the updated sanitation code.

One of the bigger changes to the new health code is the department will no longer require an annual operating permit and will instead focus on inspections, Long said. The department will inspect campgrounds at least annually, if not more, along with complaint investigations, she said.

The new code also increased the number of lived-in RVs a private property owner could have on their land without going through the permitting process from one to two, Long said. Those property owners would still be subject to other health codes, he said.

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