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Commissioners want to extend rule allowing Matthew victims to live in RVs

Ordinance would permit people to keep RVs on property if homes were damaged

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – As St. Johns County residents continue the work to repair the damage from Hurricane Matthew, the St. Augustine City Commission is hoping to make life a little easier for people who still can't live in their homes more than six months after the storm. 

City commissioners are looking to extend an emergency rule that was put into place, which allows people to live in RVs while they rebuild.

VIEW: St. Augustine ordinance to extend RV rule

News4Jax spoke with one of the people affected in the hard-hit area of Davis Shores. Many neighbors said they were thrilled about the ordinance, saying they didn't get insurance money until January and then they had to find a contractor. 

John Walker and his wife have been living in an RV on their property since the October hurricane. 

"It's starting to get pretty close with the dogs and everything else. But, fortunately, we have a place to stay so it looks like we have a place to stay a little bit longer," Walker said. 

Walker and his wife were forced out of their Davis Shores home after Hurricane Matthew. Thanks to an emergency declaration that allowed residents to live an RV on their property while making repairs, the Walkers have been able to do just that.

But that six-month declaration expired this month, and now city officials are jumping into action. 

"This is an effort to allow more flexibility for folks who were trying to recover from natural disasters," said David Birchim, planning and building director of the city of St. Augustine. 

With 12 St. Augustine residents still living in RVs on their property, Birchim introduced an ordinance that would allow residents to fix their homes on their time. 

"The homeowner would have to have a building permit, an active building permit, and be working on repairing their homes. You could not have someone else living on your property in an RV, working on your house," Birchim said. 

For the Walkers, who have five more weeks of repairs, and other homeowners like them, it's a rule that would help their families a great deal.

"That's real good news because, again, it took so long to get a contractor working and we are way beyond the point they said we could stay in the yard," Walker said. "But we have an RV, thank goodness. We have a place to stay, so that's really good news."

The ordinance had its first reading Monday evening. Later, it will have to go through a public hearing before it is passed. 

The big caveat is that once people are finished with the repairs to their homes, they can no longer live in the travel trailer.