RV owners face uncertain future living at Antioch property

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Jimmy Gordon was a drug-addicted transient for about a dozen years before he managed to get it together, got himself a 32-foot RV and parked it on a private lot in northeastern Antioch that he considers home.

“I love this,” the soft-spoken 63-year-old grandfather said, spreading out his arms toward a neatly trimmed, partly fenced-in backyard at 701 Wilbur Ave. “I am able to pay my bills. It gives me a chance to be accountable.”

But now Gordon and his wife Dawn, along with nine other families, may have to pack up their belongings and move elsewhere by month’s end because the 2.8-acre land they call home is not a legal RV park. The city has outlawed overnight RV parking since 1994.

Although RVs have parked on the property since Joe and Debbie Bosman bought it in 2000, the city hadn’t done anything about it until two years ago, when it notified the couple they were violating city codes by letting people essentially camp there. Inspectors found some code violations during a 2007 visit to the site, but nothing was said about the RVs parked there, Joe Bosman told this news organization.

City code enforcement manager Curt Michael says if the RVs aren’t gone by Oct. 1 or the property brought up to code to qualify as an RV park, the Bosmans will be issued an initial fine of $100 per violation with 10 days to fix, followed by $500 and another 10 days to fix, and $1,000 a day if still not corrected after that.

The state Department of Housing and Community Development oversees RV parks, which must be at least three acres and comply with numerous regulations involving setbacks, lighting, sewer, signage and length of stay.

“I get where these tenants and Joe are coming from, but the city has no other option to move forward with the fines,” Michael said.” “We have given him time to get the property into compliance. All we’re doing is enforcing the municipal code.”

Mayor Sean Wright, who has visited the property, asked that the matter be included in Tuesday night’s council agenda, so the council can determine whether there are any other options besides rezoning the property or relocating the RV tenants.

“We want to see if there is something we can fix before Oct. 1,” he said. “We don’t want to make anyone homeless.”

Joe Bosman said he doesn’t understand why the city is going after him now. “Why after 19 years?” he asked. “Why are they enforcing something that they haven’t enforced for all those years … There’s no better property than mine for housing these at-risk people living in RVs.”

Michael blamed the lag on a staffing shortage. Until sales tax increases under Measure C and its replacement Measure W were approved in the last several years, the city couldn’t afford to fill positions in its code enforcement department, he said. Then in 2017 it received an anonymous complaint about the RVs at the Bosman property.

Bosman has since had to fix some code violations such as turning a duplex into a triplex and converting part of a storage space to living quarters. But now he has a new violation notice, for illegally storing RVs on the property, Michael said. That’s in addition to the lingering notice for allowing RV dwellers there.

Bosman said he doesn’t want to see his tenants evicted because almost all of them are seniors on fixed incomes with nowhere else to go. As RVs have left, he hasn’t replaced them, reducing the numbers by about half in the last two years.

And on Aug. 1, he sent notices to RV dwellers giving them 60 days to move out.

“The city is putting us right back out there on the streets,” Gordon said, noting that although he’s been sober for more than five years now he is struggling with money again after being laid off last month.

Gordon and others pay $625 a month to live on the neatly kept land with a community garden and olive trees, where Bosman also operates a custom cabinet shop and rents out a duplex in the front portion of the mostly gated property.

The 13 residents, who brought their case to the City Council in late August, say it is a tight-knit, clean and safe community. The rent is also much more affordable than at area mobile home parks, which have long wait lists and require residents to live in trailers that are much newer.

“Joe (Bosman) has been a lifesaver; they don’t understand,” Gordon said.

Gordon, who was injured by an exploding land mine in Vietnam when he was 17 and still carries the shrapnel in his knee, said he’s still looking for a new place to live.

Anna Rodriguez, a 48-year-old single mother of four, also is searching for an affordable alternative to the RV she has lived in the past year. After her divorce, she moved to the duplex on the Bosmans’ property that had been converted back from a triplex. But a clavicle injury made it temporarily impossible for her to work so she had to use most of her savings on the $1,700 rent, then bought the old 26-foot RV that she parked on the same property.

“I have been looking everywhere, but most don’t take RVs and some have no privacy,” she said.

For his part, Bosman said he has been trying to work with developers more than a decade to build affordable units on his property — one of the few large plots in Antioch. The city rezoned it in 2012 for high density to comply with a state housing element requirement. But in 2017, a $26 million project with PacWest to build 126 affordable dwellings there fell through.

Bosman has until Nov. 8 to find a new developer, but chances are slim that will happen before the approvals expire and the project “just disappears,” he said.

In the meantime, Bosman said he’d like to start by making improvements on the front acre, converting a duplex back to a triplex and a cabinet shop into housing units. But that piecemeal approach has not sat well with the city, he said.

“They will not let me build on my property until I get everyone off and they won’t consider an application until then,” he said.

Forrest Ebbs, the city’s community development director, said the Bosman property does not lend itself to a piecemeal approach because its R-25 high-density zoning requires a minimum of 20 units an acre.

“Whatever he does, he has to comply with our general plan and zoning ordinance,” Ebbs said. “We have a minimum density we have to meet through our housing element.”

Other possibilities would be to subdivide the property or convert it to a legal RV park, which the state would regulate, Ebbs said.

“The city is caught between a rock and a hard place — we want to develop affordable housing but we haven’t seen a plan from Joe that meets all the requirements. … There are too many different things (land uses) happening out there.”

Council members Joy Motts and Lamar Thorpe, who head the Antioch Homeless Encampment Task Force, both said they are hoping something can be done to keep the Wilbur Avenue RV residents from becoming homeless.

The task force has suggested leasing space for temporary RV parking.

“We have a staggering number of people who are unhoused and we need to move (on dealing with the crisis) now,” Thorpe said, adding that the city is working to ensure the Wilbur Avenue residents do not wind up on the street.

“I don’t know what will come of it… We’re working to make sure nobody becomes homeless,” he said. “Our goal is not to disrupt people’s lives — if we have properties that are underutilized, then let’s use them.”

Bosman said he still hopes to develop affordable housing and keep his temporary RV tenants from being evicted.

“It would not be a cost to the city for it to allow the people to stay — many live paycheck to paycheck — and it will keep people from becoming homeless,” he said.


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Corrections & Amplifications

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RV manufacturer Thor Industries Inc. in June in its third-quarter earnings news release said that it was cutting back production of RVs and shifting its …

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The RV Industry Is in a Slump. That Doesn’t Mean a Recession Is Coming.

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Photograph by Benjamin Zanatta

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Recreational Vehicles Market 2029 Globally

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RV fire shuts down Medford thoroughfare at rush hour

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Fire District 3 put out an RV that caught fire just before 6 p.m. Tuesday in the middle of Table Rock Rd south of Wilson Rd. in Central Point. (Sammy Shaktah/News 10)

Table Rock Road is shut down in both directions after an RV caught fire in the middle of the street during rush hour.

Fire District 3 Battalion Chief Myron Harvey said they got the rescue call about 5:53 p.m. Tuesday and responded within three minutes.

“We were just down the road,” Harvey said. “We found a mobile home on fire with a couple of citizens trying to put it out. It was too much for them.”

Firefighters quickly got the upper hand and no one was hurt.

Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputies shutdown Table Rock Road from Vilas Road and Wilson Road in both directions until the vehicle can be cleaned up.

“It appears to be a problem with the engine. An engine malfunction if some kind.”

Fire District three also had assistance from firefighters from Oregon Department of Forestry who were concerned embers might ignite nearby dry grass and weeds along the roadway.

Harvey said they see more RV fires this time of year.

“We get RV fires whether it be a travel trailer or motorhome. We tend to get them in the summer,” Harvey said.

Harvey suggests drivers need to take precautions.

“Preventative maintenance. If something doesn’t sound right or seem right. Get it checked out,” Harvey said.

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2019 Keystone RV Cougar Half-Ton 28SGS

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2019 Keystone RV Cougar Half-Ton 28SGS. Where Luxury and Lightweight Meet in Perfect Harmony. Cougar Half-Ton travel trailers and fifth wheels …

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2017 KZ RV Sportster® Fifth Wheel 260TH

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2017 KZ RV Sportster Fifth Wheel 260TH. Features may include. 3/8" Fully Walk-On Roof Decking. 1-Piece Seamless Roof w/SuperFlex® Roofing …

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On the Clock: How the leader of the RV Hall of Fame is ‘giving back’ to an industry vital to Michiana | Business

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Darryl Searer traces his involvement in the RV business to the eighth grade, when he started building ventilation covers with his father in the basement of his childhood home in 1958.

With those kinds of roots, it was little wonder that industry leaders called on Searer in 2012 to help steer the RV/Manufactured Home Hall of Fame in Elkhart away from a financial chasm opened by the Recession.

Searer agreed to lead the Hall for one year; he’s now well into his seventh.

Now 76, Searer reflected recently on his tenure at the Hall, a lifetime in the business that he loves, and the future of an industry that is crucial to Michiana’s economy.

How would you describe your role at the Hall of Fame?

“I’ve been a volunteer. I take no money, no compensation from the Hall of Fame. It’s giving back to an industry that’s been very good to myself and my family.”

What part of your tenure as president brings you the most pride?

“I was in retirement for let’s say 22 years, but the last seven years I’ve been volunteering here at the Hall of Fame. And if we go back to March of 2012, the Hall of Fame had a debt of $5.5 million; and nothing had been paid down in the five years before that to reduce that debt. So the board of directors made a change, and the past president left, and I volunteered to come in for one year to help get them on the right road to recovery financially.

“And it was only a couple of weeks from foreclosure back in March of 2012, and I’m proud to say that in March of 2019, seven years later, the debt has been retired. We no longer have any debt.

“It’s been a blessing for me to see the opportunity that was here and to take advantage of that opportunity through leadership.”

Talk about your staff at the Hall.

“We have a very small staff here — I only have two full-time, salaried staff; and then I have eight part-time people that help out. It’s a lean machine, but it’s well-oiled and it does a good job.”

What’s the best part of the job?

“The best part of my job is seeing the progress we have made, and hearing from people in both the RV and the manufactured housing industry how grateful they are that the leadership was provided to put the Hall of Fame in a position that it will always be here for people to enjoy. And when I hear those comments coming back, that’s the best part of my job.”

And the worst part?

“There’s nothing that keeps me up at night worrying about the Hall of Fame. It’s probably making sure you keep on top of everything, and that you can provide the leadership to make sure it stays pristine.

“Going in an RV where people write their name in the dust — that’s the worst part of my job.

“To teach people to be proactive instead of reactive is the biggest challenge because people have a tendency to say, ‘It’s fine until somebody complains.’ Well, I want it to be pristine to where nobody complains.”

How many people visit the RV/MH Hall of Fame?

“Over 20,000 paid visitors a year.”

What’s your personal philosophy?

“One of my philosophies I’ve had since I was out of high school, and started working in the real world was to be a little bit better tomorrow than I was today. Realizing that success is not a destination, it’s a journey. So if you get just a little bit better each day of your life, you’re going to be a whole lot better at the end of every year.”

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2019 Lance Travel Trailers 1475S

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Check out the all NEW 1475S from Lance! This trailer is the definition of Light Weight Camping! It is designed to be pulled by smaller SUV's and Light …

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