How many red flags can you ignore?

Enter “Whispering Oaks Luxury RV Park” in a Goggle search field, and the first entry to pop up will be for the home page for just such an establishment, together with a notice that you can secure your slot at this premiere facility with just a $500 deposit—or “lock in the full year for the low price of $3100.”

Which right there should set off alarm bells. A full year of camping for just $3,100? At a “luxury RV” park?

Actually clicking on the link should set off a second round of alarms, with the home page boldly announcing that “Whispering Oaks RV Parks [dropping the pretensions to luxury but inexplicably becoming part of a chain ] will be opening on March 1st, 2023 on some of Mountain Home’s most majestic lakeside acreage”—that is, more than a month ago. That’s alarm-worthy because, while the site goes on to describe 30/50 amp full hook-up sites, 10’x12′ poured concrete patios, free wifi and numerous amenities “that are in development and are included as they are completed,” the truth is that essentially everything is in development. This luxury RV park, it turns out, has yet to get permits for water, septic or basic engineering.

That isn’t to say that work on building the 47-acre Mountain Home, Arkansas park hasn’t started. Apparently that began more than six months ago, lack of permits be damned, as developer Eddie Brian Sides of Reeds Springs, Missouri, freely admitted at a Baxter County Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing Feb. 27. Indeed, Sides had already been slapped with a notice of violation by the Arkansas Office of Water Quality back in November, which cited him for operating a large construction site without a required stormwater permit and for failing to use any erosion control methods while clearing the site.

But that isn’t all. Angered local residents claim Sides has been illegally cutting down trees on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property, installing septic tanks without permits, lying to county officials about the timing of the permits he did pull and threatening public access to Norfolk Lake, a major recreational waterbody. And, of course, there are the more pedestrian—but very real—concerns that have been tossed into the mix, such as storm water runoff issues and inevitable increases in traffic.

And then there’s this: Eddie Brian Sides, the brains behind this venture, apparently defrauded three Joplin, Missouri women out of a combined $29,000 a bit more than a decade ago, when—operating as Brian Sides Contracting—he accepted advance payments for construction materials to repair their homes after a tornado devastated the city. When he didn’t perform the work, the state’s attorney general sued him and a Jasper County Circuit Court Judge ordered him to repay the doubly-victimized women, as well as pay an additional $16,000 in various court costs and legal fees.

Thanks to the Mountain Home Observer, a modest but plucky on-line newspaper that dug up this information, we also know that Sides was embroiled in several other court cases involving contract non-performance, suggesting a disturbing pattern of behavior. But Sides insists there must be another Eddie Brian Sides running around the Ozarks, doing bad things and unfairly besmirching his name. “That is not me,” he told an Observer reporter when asked about the various fraud accusations. “There is another guy that done that.”

Here’s the kicker. Despite all these indications that Eddie Brian Sides plays fast and loose with facts and has little respect for land use or sanitary regulations, the Baxter commissioners nevertheless voted to approve his “plans” for the RV park—just so long as he gets those darn permits. In other words, the “planning” part of the commission’s authority— in a region that hews to the idea that people should be able to develop their property any damn way they wish—seems to be limited to checking compliance boxes and not actually evaluating development proposals or the people behind them. And while local residents have been pitching a fit over the proposed RV park, their chief concern seems to be that they not lose access to the lake.

Those same local residents and their representatives will end up living with the consequences of their short-sightedness, but RVers should take heed of all the red flags thrown on this play. An outdated and clearly misleading website is only the most outward sign of a sketchy operation, but it clearly signals what the oaks are whispering: “Mind your wallet.”

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Author: Andy Zipser

A former newspaper reporter who worked at a variety of newspapers, from small community weeklies to The Wall Street Journal, I finished my "normal" work life as the editor of The Guild Reporter, official publication of the union representing newspaper workers. On retiring, I and my wife bought a campground in the Shenandoah Valley and--with the help of our two daughters and their husbands--operated it for eight years, first as a KOA franchisee and then as an independent family-owned RV park. We sold the campground in May, 2021, and live in Staunton, Virginia, a short walk from our grandsons' home.

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