Long-term Decatur campground residents say new proposal could leave them without a place to live

Decatur

DECATUR, Ala. – A proposed plan to boost tourism at a Decatur campground is facing backlash from long term residents who say they are worried the plan will leave them without a place to live.

“Where am I going to go? They’re running me off. I mean they’re strictly running me off. I can’t afford to stay here anymore,” said Jim Herring, a four year resident at Point Mallard Campground.

During an August 31 Decatur City Council Meeting, Point Mallard Campground Manager Stephanie McLain laid out a proposal to convert Section A of the campground into a short-term area, offering one to 14-day rentals. Campground administrators say the plan is designed to promote tourism at the park by making Section A, which is the closest site to the area’s top amenities, more available to short-term campers. But those who have lived at Point Mallard for years, say the proposal would also force them to move.

“When I moved in, I bought a toy hauler. I asked them. I said, ‘Can I stay full time?’ They said ‘Yes, you can stay full time. And now they’re telling me no,” said Herring.

Campers like Herring would be allowed to move to other sections of the campground and stay there long term, but he says those areas are more prone to flooding.

Further complicating matters for residents: A decision during the August 31 Decatur City Council meeting to begin to enforce a city floodplain ordinance. That ordinance requires those living in homes without a permanent foundation, including park trailers and travel trailers, not to remain in the same location for more than 179 consecutive days. Long term campers would be forced to pick up and move to new areas of the campground twice a year to remain in compliance with the ordinance.

“The 179 days is going to be a burden on us because we’re going to have to move our camper every 6 months. Every six months we’ve got to move our satellite dish,” said Point Mallard resident Tim Harwell.

Harwell also said that bi-annual moves would trigger a hike in taxes and a number of other costs that would make it difficult for a number of Point Mallard residents to afford to continue living at the campground. The campground is also proposing a modest increase in rental charges. Harwell offered the following plea to the Decatur City Council and Point Mallard’s management team.

“We’re willing to work with them any way we can, but please give us just a little bit of consideration,” said Hardwell. “These are our lives that you’re dealing with – we’re nice, it’s a nice friendly community.”

The Decatur City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposal on Tuesday, September 8.

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