Remember in Christmas Vacation when Randy Quaid’s character dumps raw sewage from his RV down a city storm drain? Well, apparently that’s illegal in the city of Missoula. Not only the dumping, but also living in an RV outside of a designated tourist park.
Rick Gold and his partner have been living off and on for the last 10 years in a 27-foot Champion motor home in and around Missoula. But last month the City-County Health Department found out, and informed Gold that he’s got to move a half-mile beyond city limits or have his RV impounded.
“Since we live in our motor home, this means that we can’t live anywhere near Missoula, where we do all of our work,” Gold complains.
The city discovered Gold’s living situation after citing Robert Needham—who owns the property Gold has been parked on for the last few months—for garbage in his yard. The Health Department gave Gold a week to relocate, but he has yet to move. The matter has been turned over to the City Attorney’s office, which hasn’t yet acted.
“I didn’t think it was a problem,” says Gold, “because we are actually using the restroom in the house, not the one in our home.”
Gold ran this argument by the Health Department without success.
“That may or may not be the case, but the point here is that it’s not legal,” says City-County Environmental Health Director Jim Carlson. “They are designed to be self-contained units, but they’re not designed to be permanent living quarters, and the City Council has an ordinance that regulates their use.”
Carlson says that the department has dealt with numerous cases in which RVers dumped sewage into holes in the ground or down storm drains that run straight to the river.
You can fight city hall, but you can’t do it without a lawyer. Gold says he’ll search for legal help and loopholes until the city attorney’s office forces him to hit the road.