RV Park Lawsuit Scheduled Monday

A lawsuit over an RV park planned by developers on Venture Drive near the Outlet Center in Smithfield is set to be heard in Johnston County Court on Monday.

Theron Lee McLamb of Smithfield appeared before the Smithfield Town Council on October 3rd, 2017 seeking permission to open a 148 space RV park and 48 cabin rentals on 33 acres of land he owns on Venture Drive behind the Outlet Center and adjacent to the Pine Acres Subdivision.  The town council voted 4-to-2 to reject the request and the necessary permits McLamb needed to operate.

McLamb, through his attorney, Chip Hewett of Selma, filed a lawsuit in Johnston County Superior Court seeking to overturn the town council’s decision.

Smithfield Town Attorney Bob Spence responded shortly after the lawsuit was filed in December 2017 saying in part, “In lay terms, the Council felt the proposed use was too inconsistent with the adjacent use, namely this large RV Park should not be immediately adjacent to the residences in Pine Acres and their back yards.  In short, the Council believed that having this RV Park with 196 campfires for outside entertainment for itinerant travelers on I-95 immediately next door to these residences was inappropriate and would adversely affect the existing use, namely these long established homes and their back yards.”

Dozens of people gather in the chambers of the Smithfield Town Council for a public hearing on a controversial RV park on October 3, 2017. JoCoReport.com Photo

Spence said the town council was justified in the decision based on several factors.  “The RV Park would remove the forest on the project land – clear cut it – place a 50 foot buffer with a six foot fence, some existing trees and some shrubs as a buffer between the long border between the park and the back yards of the subdivision lots facing north on Aspen Drive.  The proposed buffer is substantially inadequate. The applicant offered no other mitigation of the impact of the project on the adjacent back yards.”

Spence, defending the council’s decision, said the proposed RV park would also be a compatibility issue with residents in the long-established Pine Acres Subdivision.

“The application proposes a total of 48 cabin spaces and 148 RV spaces, expecting full occupancy.  They propose 196 tightly packed spaces on 2500 to 2900 separate gross square feet of yard for each campsite, each with its own “fire pit” and “grill”.  Thus, the subdivision would suddenly have 196 campfires outside of its back yard virtually every night with each site hosting a group of travelers enjoying camping out,” Attorney Spence said in an email. “The Council finds even if partially screened by a six foot fence and shrubs, that for the neighboring subdivision to be forced to listen to and look out of their back yards onto 196 campfires of itinerant groups traveling up and down I-95 would substantially and adversely affect the quiet enjoyment of the adjacent subdivision, the sense of privacy available in these long established homes, and the sense of vulnerability to neighboring itinerant revelers and campers.”

“The Council believes it made the correct decision that the residential use and the RV campers adjacent to the back yard of these residences are too inconsistent,” the Smithfield town attorney stated.

The last time a similar council decision was appealed was in 2014.

McLamb’s lawsuit contends the Town of Smithfield erred by discussing the issue in an August 1stclosed session which was in violation of the NC Open Meeting Laws, the town manager at his own discretion removed the permit from consideration before the start of the July 2017 Planning Board meeting without having the authority to do so, and the council allowed inadmissible and prejudicial testimony to be presented during the October public hearing by residents who were opposed to the RV park.

A superior court judge is expected to rule on the case.

A number of opponents to the RV park are expected to attend Monday’s court hearing.