2010-01-14 / Front Page

Campground residency rules are strengthened

Jackson officials set limits on length of stays
BY DAVE BENJAMIN Staff Writer
Working on the premise that campgrounds in Jackson are for recreational use and short-term vacations — and not for permanent residency — the Jackson Township Council has adopted an ordinance that amends the present campground regulations. The vote to make the changes was 5-0.

There are five licensed campgrounds in Jackson: Timber Lake, Maple Lake, Indian Rock, Butterfly and Tip Tam, according to municipal officials.

According to the amended campground ordinance, from Nov. 1 through March 31, occupancy of any campsite in a campground will not be allowed except by special weekly permit.

A licensed campground may offer special weekly permits during that period of time if all camping vehicles are registered to a permanent location other than the campground, or contractors are working in or around Jackson.

The campground must continue to provide utility hookups, and a register must be maintained that is current and available for inspection by representatives of the township.

No permits will be issued for more than three consecutive weeks to any individual or group of individuals, or for more than a total of five weeks to any individual or group of individuals in the period Nov. 1 to March 31, according to the amended ordinance.

In discussing the issue of campground residency, council President Mike Kafton said, “There are [some] campgrounds that have children [as residents] who are attending our school system, and it has become a burden to the taxpayers and our schools. We have to give some teeth to our code enforcement officer, and this ordinance creates that.”

Municipal and school officials told the Tri-Town News after the council meeting that area residents had lodged complaints about children who live at the campgrounds and allegedly attend Jackson schools.

Jackson code enforcement officer John Grillo told the Tri-Town News that when township representatives got in touch with school officials, they were told there were no children from campgrounds going to Jackson schools.

He said the township representatives were also told that the Jackson School District could not refuse to educate children who live at a campground if any such children enrolled in school.

“We were under the assumption that they were all going to Lakewood, because there were unmarked buses and they were going in other directions, but there were children living at the campgrounds,” said Grillo. “There were calls and complaints.”

Grillo said the complaints related to children who were hanging out on East Veterans Highway in front of a campground. He said they were not residents of the immediate area.

He said he went out to the location one morning, parked across the street and monitored the situation. Grillo said he watched the children come out of the campground and get on unmarked buses from the east end of the campground. He said they were not Jackson buses and said they were going eastbound toward Lakewood.

He said it is possible that some children who live at a campground attend school in Jackson, but he was not able to provide definitive information.

During the public hearing on the amendments to the campground ordinance, Anita Pfefferkorn, who owns Indian Rock Campground, asked the council members for a postponement to discuss the number of consecutive days allowed.

In response, Kafton said there are some campgrounds that are not following the rules.

“We can’t put the burden on the taxpayers and the schools,” he said. “There are kids coming from the campgrounds. Unfortunately, there are some [campgrounds] that are forcing us to create an ordinance because this has become a burden to the township.”

Pfefferkorn said she thought there was no residency permitted at the campgrounds in the existing ordinance.

Kafton told her she was correct, but said the regulations had to be amended because people were trying to get around that rule.

“We have to be more specific and give a time frame during the winter hours, when kids go to school,” he said. “That’s why the ordinance has been created. There are too many kids coming in [to Jackson schools] from campgrounds and the taxpayers are picking up the costs, which amounts to thousands and thousands of dollars.”

Some people leave the campground for a day or two after the first 15-day period expires and then come back for the next 15 days, so that has forced officials to amend the ordinance, he said.

“You may not be violating [the rules,] but there are some who do,” Kafton told Pfefferkorn.

Darren Guglielmelli, who owns Tip Tam Campground, said he was concerned about the potential loss of income needed to operate his business. He said the campground only has a certain number of days to produce the revenue that is needed to produce the taxes he has to pay.

“You are actually cutting out a fivemonth period of earning [for us],” he told the council. “When you look at rising taxes [and other costs], we can only raise our daily rates, but then you’re pushing people away who may not be able to afford it.”

Guglielmelli said other area businesses, such as supermarkets, will be hurt by the new regulations pertaining to campgrounds.

Resident Joannne Guglielmelli, the mother of the Tip Tam Campground owner, said there are people who leave their camping vehicle at a campground and then return.

“We had two gentlemen who were [touring] with [a musician],” she said. “Their units would be left in our campground while they were on the tour. Should I send them to [a Freehold Township campground] and lose that income? We keep a log book of everyone who comes in. We are hard-working people and we need to make our money to survive.”

Kafton said this is a serious matter at the moment and said a meeting could be set up with the campground owners to work together and listen to their concerns. If it means there is a reasonable cause to make a change, officials will be able to amend the ordinance, he said.

Councilwoman Bobbie Rivere said the ordinance should be adopted and said it can be amended if it needs to be.

Grillo said the ordinance covers all the bases and sets up ground rules that give township representatives the right to go into the campgrounds and write summonses for violations.

“Before it was so wide open with no restrictions,” said Grillo. “We would go into court with a summons and it would be thrown out because there were no set dates.”

Grillo said the amended ordinance not only sets the guidelines, but allows for a permit to be obtained to operate while people need to stay.

Jackson Police Department Capt. Christopher Dunton said the issue of residency also includes certain issues that the police department deals with on a regular basis in terms of criminal elements.

“This also poses an economic burden on the police department and the residents,” Dunton said. “We spend a tremendous amount of time dealing with the criminal element which occurs in the campgrounds where people take up residence.”

The amended ordinance gives the code enforcement officer a great deal of latitude and a greater ability to enforce the laws, Dunton said.

Resident Richard Zauner said the solution is simple. He said if there are children at a campground the youngsters cannot be registered in school. He said the children should have to find a permanent residence before being permitted to enroll in Jackson’s schools.

However, a school district official subsequently told the Tri-Town News that if a child has a Jackson address that can be verified, the youngster is permitted to enroll in the district.

Kafton, who is a local businessman, said it is not the aim of officials to prohibit anyone from making money at a business in Jackson.

He said officials are just trying to make sure people are not living at a campground permanently, putting children into the school district and having taxpayers pick up the educational costs.

The ordinance, approved in December, became effective this month.

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