A judge ruled Tuesday that three "funstead" owners in Indian Acres Campground are in violation of the county's zoning ordinance and must vacate their homes.
A hearing before Cecil County District Court Judge Bonnie G. Schneider involved three of nearly 20 cases the county has brought to court for alleged violations of the county's zoning laws.
Those laws prohibit living in the campground longer than 100 consecutive days a year, or more than 150 total days.
The judge's ruling marks the first eviction of property owners living in the campground as permanent residents since a 2009 court ruling upholding the county's right to enforce laws that prevent full-time campground occupancy.
"This is a sign that action is being taken at Indian Acres," said County Commissioners' President Jim Mullin. "This has been a joint effort by the county, campground residents and the campground management company to get the site back to its original intent."
Cecil County Zoning Administrator Cliff Houston testified for the county Tuesday, as did defendants Thomas and Inez Tillger, who admitted they've been living at Indian Acres full time but said they have no other choice. The Tillgers had no lawyer for the hearing.
Lori Beth Ellinger and Lynne Writer, two other defendants, did not attend the hearing.
The three residents scheduled for court Tuesday are among 20 funstead owners still living at Indian Acres who didn't sign an agreement this spring with the county to give them up to five years to transition from permanent to seasonal residency.
Cecil County commissioners approved a deal in late 2009 to give full-time residents of the campground up to five years to find somewhere else to live, but the residents had to sign a letter of intent by May 2010 to qualify for the grace period.
Eric Sennstrom, the county's director of planning and zoning, said 91 residents signed the agreement, which was mailed to all 1,550 funstead owners.
After the agreements were signed, a committee set up to monitor compliance of the zoning ordinance reported a list of nearly 20 potential violators determined from tips and inspections of the campground.
Schneider gave the Tillgers 90 days to find a place to live, but she ruled the other two defendants must vacate immediately.
Randy Jackson, a lawyer representing Cecil County at the hearing, said Schneider signed the order Tuesday. That order starts the 90-day notice for the Tillger family and the immediate eviction of Ellinger and Writer.
County zoning inspectors will be required to check the campground to see if the violators obeyed the court order to move out.
"If they don't move out, we will notify our lawyer who will schedule a contempt hearing," said Sennstrom, who believes the judge will have discretion of ordering fines and/or jail time. "This is just the beginning of a long process of bringing these violators into court."
Three more cases out of the nearly 17 remaining in District Court have been scheduled for hearings on Sept. 20 and Nov. 8.
Indian Acres Campground is located at 645 Knight Island Road near Earleville and offers campsites for sale.