City zoning plan criticized

When is a mobile home park not a mobile home park?

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— By all accounts, Trailer Haven, the property behind the post office, looks a whole lot like a mobile home park. So then why, in the newest draft of the city's Community Development Code, isn't it zoned as such?

The answer to that question, which was brought up by City Councilman Jim Engelken at a recent meeting on the fourth draft of the code, has to do with a decision that was made during discussions on the third draft.

In the third draft, the city's mobile home parks were designated MH, which stands for the "Mobile Home" zone. That constituted a change from the current code, in which mobile home parks are zoned under classifications like Commercial Highway and Multifamily Residential.

On March 18, 1999, the city held a public meeting at which it was decided, with pressure from mobile home park owners and the Planning Commission's recommendation, to zone those properties as "Planned Development." The PD zone, which was done away with in the fourth draft, would have allowed developers flexibility in terms of what they could build on the property, much like "Planned Unit Developments" in the current code.

Planning Commissioner Tony Connell said the commissioners were attempting to balance the desires of the landowners with the need to find more creative solutions to the area's affordable housing problem. He said he had hoped more mobile homes could find a more secure place in the west end of Steamboat Springs.

After eliminating the PD zone in the fourth draft (though PUD's are still likely to be a part of the new code), the city decided that the next best and fairest decision was to zone the properties under their current zoning, even if that zoning has nothing to do with the current uses of those properties, said Planner Tracey Hughes. Hughes attempted to maintain current zoning wherever possible in the new code, she said.

That premise has been challenged in the past few weeks not only by Engelken but also by local attorney Bob Weiss and a group of mobile home owners who want more security in their living situations.

With the trailer parks zoned as Multifamily or Commercial Highway, landowners might not have to rezone their properties if they want to redevelop the land. They would still have to go to the city to be able to subdivide their land or if the new use conflicted with the code.

Still, Weiss said, the city should be looking to maintain as much public scrutiny as possible when affordable housing options like mobile homes are put in jeopardy.

"The more this is debated and the more discussion the better result we're going to get," Weiss said.

Weiss also proposed that the city make mobile home park owners reveal their intentions for the property and the names and addresses of all residents who would be displaced before throwing anyone off the land.

Weiss said that if the city encourages a greater level of public scrutiny for historical properties and developments with potential environmental impacts, it ought to do the same for affordable housing.

The problem with the fourth draft is that once the mobile home park owner goes to the city for a development permit, the residents of the park have likely already been evicted, Weiss said.

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