Saturday, February 17, 2001
Q. Why did you encourage the residents of the city's trailer parks to attend the City Council meeting on Feb. 13?
A. Two reasons. First, anyone who lives in a mobile home park in Steamboat Springs faces the possibility of eviction should the land where their home sits be used for another purpose. These people have their homes and their investments at stake. Their presence at the council meeting indicates the concern they have for their future and encourages City Council to act to help preserve this type of affordable housing. Secondly, I wanted our City Council to see and meet the many constituents of theirs who live in mobile homes in our community. The number quoted at the council meeting was over 450 mobile homes within the city limits of Steamboat Springs. That represents a conservative estimate of 1,000 citizens living in mobile homes inside the city.
Q. How would the city be able to help trailer park residents who don't own the land under their trailers and why should it?
A.The city could help in several ways. First, they could keep mobile home parks zoned as mobile home parks. Second, they could enact an ordinance that would require a developer of an existing mobile home park to obtain a permit before the property could be developed into something other than a mobile home park. To get the permit the landowner would need to identify the residents of the park, list the type and year of the trailers in the park, identify other mobile home parks within a defined area for possible relocation, describe the type and amount of compensation, if any, to the mobile homeowners for their loss and identify a specific timeline for the relocation of the residents. This would give the trailer park residents more time to relocate. The city could also assist the Regional Affordable Living Foundation in obtaining land for the relocation of mobile homes. Council could help with the zoning and permitting process required to create new mobile home parks. They could also waive certain fees to keep the new land as affordable as possible for the new tenants. City Council should take an active stance because it is in the best interests of this community to maintain a diverse population base and that includes the many citizens who live in mobile homes.
Q. In your opinion, how do mobile home parks fit into the mix of affordable housing options in Steamboat?
A. Let's do the math! The average annual wage in Routt County in 1999 was $26,939. That translates to about $2,000 per month. In 1999 the median housing price for Routt County was $326,439. To purchase a home at that price you would need to put 10 percent down or $32,000 and make monthly payments of $2,200. A small 2 bedroom condominium in Steamboat Springs costs from $110,000-$300,000, again requiring monthly payments of between $1,000 and $2,000. That is tough to do when you are only making $2,000 per month. A mobile home, on the other hand, can be purchased for $20,000-$80,000, thus making it more affordable. If the mobile homeowner can actually own the land their trailer sits on, then it is even more affordable as their investment appreciates with the land values.
Q. The fourth draft of the city's new Community Development Code zones the land under most Steamboat Springs mobile home parks as something other than a mobile home neighborhood. Why do you want mobile home parks zoned under the mobile home classification rather than other classifications such as Multifamily Residential?
A. The new zoning map should reflect the current land uses. If a property is a farm it should be zoned agricultural. If a property is a mobile home park it should be zoned as such. To zone a mobile home park as anything but that immediately causes the property to be non-conforming to the zoning. This just doesn't make any sense. Multifamily Residential is a much broader definition than the Mobile Home distinction and could be interpreted as condominiums or apartments instead of mobile homes.
Q. Don't developers or property owners such as the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Association (which owns the land that Trailer Haven trailer park sits on) have the right to use their land in whatever legal way they deem fit?
A. No one in Steamboat Springs has the right to use their land in whatever way they deem fit. Every property in Steamboat Springs is subject to numerous rules and regulations regarding land use and the requirement that a permit be obtained before changing any land use. Land use laws are enacted for a reason. For example, you could not build an oil refinery on land you may own adjacent to a high-density residential neighborhood. Similarly, you can't start a pig farm on a vacant lot in the center of a downtown commercial district. These laws are in place to protect the general public. Any changes to these laws need to go through a public process. The Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Association has the right to purchase land. If they want to change the use of that land that is within their prerogative as well. However, they, like everybody else, need to follow established legal procedures and go through the proper public processes.