By Tia Lynn Ivey
Dejected and distressed, Terry Richards and his ailing father, Bobby Richards, left the Morgan County Board of Commissioners powerless over their own property.
“My father paid for his 100-acre farm by the sweat of his brow, and now he can’t decide to have an RV on it to have his son nearby to care for him when he’s sick?”
In a 3-to-1 vote, county commissioners denied a hardship request from Terry Richards, asking to temporarily live in his $15,000 RV on his father’s farm on Fairplay Road in Rutledge in order to help care for his father’s deteriorating health. Bobby Richards has been diagnosed with Stage II Dementia.
Commissioner Ben Riden made a motion to approve the hardship request for one year, to give the Richards time to find a more permanent solution, but his motion died since none of the other commissioners seconded it.
Andy Ainslie made the motion to deny the hardship request, in conjunction with County Planner Chuck Jarrell’s recommendation.
“I don’t see what the hardship is,” said Ainslie.
“The RV is about an eighth of a mile from the father’s house, an eight of a mile is a bit of distance,” said Jarrell, arguing the RV was too far for Richards to keep an eye on his father.
Despite Terry Richards’ promise to have his RV pumped as much as needed to keep the RV’s internal septic tanks clean and orderly and to make other updates to satisfy the commission’s concerns, the board ultimately voted to deny the hardship request.
Richards originally bought the RV and placed it on his father’s property to help care for both his parents about a year ago. Since, his mother died. He was unaware that living in an RV violated a county ordinance which only allows a person to live in an RV 15 days out of a 60-day period. He asked the commissioners to grant him one more year to give his family time to find a more permanent solution.
“I have a brother and cannot build on the land because we haven’t decided how the farm will be split up after my father dies,” said Richards. “Please just give us a year and the camper will be gone. That will give us enough time to make other arrangements in planning our next move.”
But the commissioners were not swayed.
Commissioners Ainslie, Donald Harris, and Ron Milton voted to deny the request. Riden voted against the denial.
“The way I see it, it’s not an eyesore,’ said Riden. “We should give him a year.”
After voting down the hardship request, Ainslie asked County Planning Director Chuck Jarrell what would happen next for the Richards.
“The RV does not have to be physically moved, but it has to be removed from all capabilities from being lived in,” said Jarrell. “He can come back at any point with an appeal.”
Ainslie encouraged the Richards to work with the planning department to see if something could be worked out.
After the meeting, Terry and Bobby were distraught and disappointed.
“I don’t know what to do. We may have to get a lawyer,” said Terry.
“My son moved to be close me, and help before my wife passed. I don’t know what I would have done with out,” said Bobby. “I still don’t know what I would do without him.”
The Commissioners suggested Terry Richards build a house on the land or move into the existing house with his father, but both options aren’t feasible, said Terry.
“This really boils down to, how can they make a decision about your own property like that? It’s just not right.”