DeWitt County fails to enforce rules, RV park owner says

Sara  Sneath By Sara Sneath

Feb. 9, 2014 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 9, 2014 at 8:10 p.m.

Melvin Chaloupka bought his property just south of Cuero along the Guadalupe River in 2010.

Chaloupka, 57, had always envied winter Texans. With an RV Park, he could be a part of their culture, getting to know people from all over the U.S. who flock to Texas for the winter months.

In 2010, Chaloupka began building an RV park on his property in River Haven Subdivision. He quickly realized the permitting process for the park was more difficult and expensive than he initially believed.

His property rests in a floodplain, meaning he had to build within the DeWitt County flood damage prevention court order, which required him to build elevated electrical boxes and keep his construction site clear of debris.

"You have the rules and regulations to protect the people, 'cause when that river comes up, all this stuff is going to float out of here," Chaloupka said.

Chaloupka was also required to go through an extensive septic system permitting process, which he said cost him about $60,000.

About two months after he opened his RV park, River Haven RV Resort, other landowners in River Haven Subdivision began building RV parks of their own. But Chaloupka said those landowners skipped out on the extensive permitting processes that he went through.

Chaloupka turned to DeWitt County to enforce its septic system and floodplain regulations, he said. That was two years ago, and nothing has changed, Chaloupka said.

"After two years, I think it's time to do something," Chaloupka said. "They're continuing to kick the can down the road when they need to take care of this."

Chaloupka is on the agenda for Monday's commissioners court meeting to once again bring the issue to the attention of DeWitt County. But DeWitt County Judge Daryl Fowler said Chaloupka's former complaints were unfounded.

Fowler said it was previously determined after inspection that there were no violations of DeWitt's flood damage prevention court order.

"Mr. Chaloupka has brought a complaint forward to the commissioners court that at present is unsubstantiated," Fowler said. "He has asked for some speaking opportunity time on our next agenda, and we are going to allow him the opportunity to speak."

Fowler said septic system enforcement and regulation are not under his jurisdiction but that of the Victoria City-County Health Department, which has been contracted by DeWitt County to handle on-site septic system regulation and enforcement.

Chaloupka said after he brought the matter to the attention of the Victoria City-County Health Department, the department filed seven septic system citations to River Haven Subdivision landowners with the DeWitt county attorney.

DeWitt County Attorney Raymond Reese said Victoria City-County Health Department did not formally file citations but brought some potential cases to his office that the health department later decided it didn't want to prosecute.

Environmental health division supervisor with Victoria City-County Health Department James Soderholtz declined to comment Friday.

Chaloupka said he will continue to fight to protect his business.

"I don't care about the competition. Bring it on," Chaloupka said. "But I want the competition on a level playing field."

He said if the county is not enforcing its flood damage prevention order, DeWitt County landowners' flood insurance could be at risk. And Victoria residents' drinking water could be contaminated if septic system regulations in DeWitt are not being followed in the area that runs along the Guadalupe River, he said.

Chaloupka estimates that 65 RVs in his neighborhood alone are out of compliance with the septic system regulations. He said he will continue to raise this issue until the regulating entities take action.

"When it's brought to their attention, they need to act on it," Chaloupka said. "And it has been brought to each one of these entities."



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