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McCrory signs summer camp building code bill

State Rep. Chuck McGrady. State Rep. Chuck McGrady.

Henderson County summer camp owners are thanking state Rep. Chuck McGrady for his work on a bill that relieves the camps of what they describe as onerous and unnecessary commercial building code requirements.

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The bill exempts “open air cabins” that house campers from lighted exit signs and plumbing and electrical systems and sprinkler systems.
Sandi Boyer, executive director of the North Carolina Youth Camp Association, said members badly wanted relief from the expensive code requirements.
“It was increasing the cost of camp owners, who have a very small margin of revenue to work with,” Boyer said. McGrady “agreed that there had to be a way to exempt these particular structures from the commercial code and that’s exactly what the bill did.”

“Over the years, the state building code has struggled as how to classify summer camp cabins, and by default they were being treated like motel rooms,” McGrady said in his April 30 newsletter. “Well, if a summer camp builds a cabin to the specifications for a motel room, the structure is really no longer a rustic cabin."

Gov. Pat McCcory signed the bill on Friday.

“My thanks to Governor McCrory for his quick action on my bill to change the building code for summer camp cabins," McGrady said in a statement. "The new law will insure that our summer camps are able to continue to build rustic camp cabins rather than being forced to build cabins that are more like Holiday Inn motel rooms.

"There is no need for lighted exits and sprinkler systems in summer camp cabins, and the new law takes a common sense approach to the building code for such cabins.  My thanks also go to Sen. Tom Apodaca who moved the bill quickly in the Senate and Rep. Chris Whitmire who worked closely with me to get the bill through the House.  It is gratifying to see the speed with which this bill became law.”

Apodaca, the Senate Rules Committee chair, "did an amazing job," McGrady said. "He picked it up. We passed it out of committee in the morning and he passed it out of the Senate. It was a one-day bill."

In his newsletter, McGrady noted that Transylvania and Henderson counties have the highest concentration of summer camps in the state.

“So it made sense that Rep. Chris Whitmire (R-Transylvania) and I would work to change the building code to allow the summer camps to build the types of cabins they’ve been using for nearly 100 years,” he said.
John Dockendorf John Dockendorf Many people don’t recognize the economic activity that summer camps generate, camp owner John Dockendorf told around 100 people who came to Camp Ton-A-Wandah for the sixth annual Camp Field Day sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and United Community Bank.
“Henderson County, North Carolina — home of the North Carolina Apple Festival. Eighty-five percent grows 85 percent of the apples grown in North Carolina,” Dockendorf, owner of Camp Pinnacle and Adventure Treks in Flat Rock, asked the crowd. “Who grosses more in revenue? Henderson County apples or Henderson County summer camps? Summer camps. And it’s not even close. Apples, $24 million. Summer camps, back of the envelope statistics, $35 million.
“Is there more land in apples or more land in summer camps?” “Summer camps,” the crowd responded. Who conserves the most land in woods, forest and streams? Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy or Henderson County summer camps?”
“Summer camps,” the answer came again.
Dockendorf said summer camps contribute more to the Western North Carolina economy than even the Biltmore House — $238 million for the estate to $355 million for summer camps. Summer camps also pay property tax.
“I want you guys to get that we are the silent giant in Western North Carolina,” he said. “We don’t ask for much. We’re all pretty low key. We’re environmentally friendly. We bring a lot of great people to the area to live and most importantly we’re good for kids.”
Protects more than 6,000 acres of land — including wildlife corridors, mountaintops and watersheds.
Henderson County has about 20 summer camps and Western Carolina has 55. In Henderson County employs 200 to 300 people fulltime “and in the summer 1,500 summer camp counselors will come and work here and on their days off spend their money here," Dockendorf said. "We just hope they don’t buy beer.”
Camps also help children escape from technology and develop social skills that don’t revolve around Facebook and Instagram.