City closer to protecting mobile home residents

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— The Steamboat Springs City Council took a big first step Tuesday night toward adopting a potentially unprecedented ordinance in Colorado to protect residents of mobile home parks.

With at least 30 mobile home park residents and property owners present, the City Council gave staff direction to bring back an ordinance July 10 that would make owners of mobile home parks present an impact report if they want to change the use of their land. On top of that, at least two City Councilors Jim Engelken and Kevin Bennett showed strong support for zoning all mobile home park property as Mobile Home.

The zoning proposal is an attempt to make owners of mobile home parks have to come to the city and have a public hearing to rezone their property if they plan to change it. Currently, many mobile home parks are not zoned as such.

The zoning issue has come up before in discussions on the new development code, but city staff consistently noted that it was not the city's intent to "spot" zone. Spot zoning entails redesignating singular parcels of land within larger areas that may have a different designation.

The two attorneys for a local trailer park who drafted the ordinance and presented it to City Council last month were absent from the meeting, though many mobile home owners and advocates showed up to state the case for protecting their homes.

Mark Freirich said the city should shift the burden of finding a way to relocate trailers from the mobile home residents to the park owners.

"There are going to be burdens that are going to be incurred as a result of the change of use," Freirich said. "Those burdens need to be incurred by those owners who seek to change that use."

John Kerst of First National Bank also brought up the point that lenders would feel more secure giving loans to mobile home buyers if those homes were protected by the city.

Some mobile home park owners, however, objected to the city's attempts to control the land and the homes on it.

"It's unfair because it saddles several landowners in town with the burden of solving or contributing to the solution of your affordable-housing problem," said Mark Steinke, an attorney representing the owner of Westland mobile home park.

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