Is MLT the home of ‘un-kept’ RVs? Officials survey RVs in the city

An "un-kept" RV on 55th Avenue West in Mountlake Terrace
An “un-kept” RV on 55th Avenue West in Mountlake Terrace

A recently completed survey of recreational vehicles in Mountlake Terrace shows that more than one-third are in “un-kept” condition, a number that may lead to changes in how city officials regulate such vehicles.

Using GPS technology and on-site field observations, and with assistance from the city’s Public Work Department, the Mountlake Terrace Police Department compiled data on the 888 privately-owned motorhomes, boats, campers, canopies and trailers in Mountlake Terrace. The survey took three weeks to complete; results of the survey were reported to the City Council last week.

The survey also compared Mountlake Terrace’s current regulations concerning RVs with those in neighboring cities.

An "un-kept" RV on 52nd Avenue West
An “un-kept” RV on 52nd Avenue West

“The city’s trying to bring economic development to the city, and what does it look like when you see an ugly RV across the street — is that going to bring in a development into the city if we don’t have rules and regulations that guide that,” said Police Chief Greg Wilson. The survey was conducted to provide information to city officials in case further study on RV code modification or enforcement is pursued, Wilson said.

Results of the survey showed 300 of the 888 RVs (34 percent) in the city are in “un-kept” condition, with another 19 (2 percent) in unknown condition due to an inability to see them from the street. Only 154 RVs (17 percent) earned a “well-kept” designation in the survey; 414 RVs (47 percent) were designated as being in “kept” condition.

While current code calls for RVs in the city to be in “well-kept” condition, no specific definition of what that means is included in the regulations. For the survey, a “well-kept” RV was defined as one parked on an improved or maintained surface and with a proper-fitting tarp over it. A “kept” RV was defined as one that wasn’t in either extraordinary or horrible condition; “un-kept” RVs were ones observed in disrepair, covered in moss or mold, or blocked from view by vegetation.

The survey included boats, campers, canopies and trailers in its data
The survey included boats, campers, canopies and trailers in its data

City code does require RVs, if stored with any portion on property in front of the  main residence, to be parked on “improved” (blacktop, concrete) or “maintained” (well-groomed gravel) surfaces, a requirement that 44 percent of RV owners may not meet, according to the survey results. A total of 394 of the 888 RVs were found on unimproved surfaces. Survey results show 354 (40 percent) were found on “improved” surfaces and 95 (11 percent) were observed on “maintained” surfaces. There were 45 RVs (5 percent) parked on surfaces that were unobservable from the street.

One city code that was overwhelmingly met by Mountlake Terrace residents was the requirement to have no more than two RVs on a property; 588 properties were observed with one RV parked on them, while 104 were found with two RVs. There were 26 properties observed with three RVs, one property with four RVs, and two properties with five RVs.

Some city council members have indicated initial support for examining the prohibition of parking RVs on the street in front of the property owner’s residence between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. Mayor Jerry Smith said that RV owners returning from vacation, wanting to unload the vehicle and then staying lawful by removing the RV from the street before midnight are faced with a difficult inconvenience.

“That means you have to come in between 6 in the morning and 8 at night, and unload,” he said. “You can’t come home at midnight or 1 a.m.”

You can view the entire Mountlake Terrace Recreational Vehicle Survey 2013 presentation here.

  1. I always thought the term was “unkempt” vs. “unkept.” Regardless, I side with Mayor Smith here. As an owner of a “kept” RV, I usually store it outside the city limits out of respect for my neighbors. Enacting a no-overnight-parking ordinance would be an undue burden and is a solution to a problem that does not exist.

  2. There is so much, “you must be kidding” in this story, its hard to know where to start. After apparently lying dormant for years, the regulations now about to be enforced lack a definition of what the primary offense, “un-kept” means. Never mind, city employees came up with their own and found 300 violations.

    Then our police chief claims that new development is somehow reliant on ridding the city of this scourge. Has anyone asked AFCO, the builder of the new 5-story at 236th and 56th, or the owners of the soo-to-open brew pub how they were abble to look past all this unsightliness?

    FYI, this is not the first enforcement spasm associated with the nuisance code. The last major one was in 2001 when in response to a large public blowback, our former mayor, Dave Gossett, and our former police chief, Scott Smith promised neighborhood meetings before any further implementation of these ordinances. That was 12 years ago next month, before any of the current council were in place, and those meetings have still never taken place.

  3. I read this article and have two thoughts.

    First, it is apparent to me that Mountlake Terrace Police have too much time on their hands. Apparently there is so little crime in MLT that they need to spend their time snooping on our neighbors to see if they have kept up on washing their vehicles. Is it really a crime to have an RV that has moss, mold, or a view blocked by vegetation? Was it really a good use of public monies to take three weeks to inventory our neighbors RVs to see which were mossy, moldy or unable to be viewed due to vegetation (i.e. landscaping)? I don’t think so.

    Second, the purported problem of “un-kept” RVs is not solved by prohibiting street parking for RVs between midnight and 6 a.m. MLT can continue to have many RVs that are mossy, moldy or obscured by vegetation in off-street parking. I don’t always agree with Mayor Jerry Smith, but he is spot on in opposing this prohibition. What the nighttime parking prohibition effectively accomplishes is criminalization of homeless populations living in their RVs that park for the night in MLT while they struggle to keep jobs and maintain some semblance of normalcy for their children. Rather than persecute the downtrodden in some sort of misguided NIMBYism and garden club variety aestheticism, MLT Police should investigate real crimes and protect vulnerable populations in our midst.

    If folks really want to run the homeless out of town through criminalization of RV parking as some effort to improve property values or promote investment by developers, let’s have the courage and transparency to discuss the impacts and tradeoffs openly. Otherwise, our public servants are not worthy of our respect or trust.

  4. I want to send a thank you to MLTPD for ensuring that the RV parked on 48th was moved/towed. Each morning I picked up trash & empties. A dozen of our neighbors worried that MLT was going to look like Seattle. Thanks again!

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