BICKNELL — City officials are pursuing a new local ordinance that would prohibit people from living in backyard campers.
Mayor Thomas Estabrook said during a recent special meeting, city council members took up a piece of legislation — one still very much in the works — that would finally address a very common complaint from local residents.
“People will pull a camper or a motor home, park it behind someone’s house and live in it,” Estabrook said. “We get multiple complaints about that.”
An example, he said, was a recent report of a local home with three campers parked outside. Extension chords, the mayor said, were run from the primary dwelling — a double-wide trailer — to the mobile homes to extend electricity.
“It’s dangerous. It drives down property values,” he said. “And it promotes the kind of substandard living we’re not really looking for here.”
It’s been an issue on and off for years, he said, but the city has never addressed it with a specific ordinance — until now.
He’s hopeful, he said, that council members will give it final approval when they meet again in regular session on Aug. 10.
“We had our first reading, good discussion,” he said. “We’ll take it back up when we meet again.
“This is something (the council) wants to address because they get complaints when it happens,” the mayor said of council members.
Enforcement, the mayor said, will be handled by Bicknell’s sole police officer, currently retired Vincennes Police Department officer Roger Smith, and the city council itself.
Should city officials be made aware of someone living in a camper on someone else’s property, the city’s police officer will be dispatched to ask that the camper be moved.
“If they do, everything will be fine,” Estabrook said. “If not, they’ll get a citation and be summoned to city court.”
If the person still doesn’t comply, the ordinance would allow city officials to tow the camper or mobile home away and send the owner the bill.
The ordinance, too, will address another problem city officials have dealt with in previous years, which is residents living in a home being supplied electricity by a generator.
“We’ll have folks living in a rental house, they don’t pay their electric bill and it’s shut off, so they have a portable generator for electricity,” Estabrook said. “That becomes an issue for neighboring property owners, having a loud generator running day and night.
“It doesn’t happen a lot, but it does occasionally,” the mayor said. “So this ordinance will take care of that, too.”
Estabrook, too, figures that — once the ordinance is approved and in place — these will be the types of issues that can be remedied quickly.
“Because this is just one of those issues that gets attention,” he said. “If someone is living in a camper on someone else’s property, we get a call pretty quick.”
Estabrook did say that this new ordinance would not impact residents who have campers and park them outside their homes. It would only be directed at people using a camper as a permanent residence.