Tennis to replace trailer court

Health and Rec moves forward with development plans

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— The Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Association is getting ready to build tennis courts this summer where Trailer Haven trailer park currently sits. The nonprofit association presented an application last week to the city to build three hard courts after the trailer park is demolished and its remaining residents are evicted this July.

The trailer park sits on Fish Creek Falls Road roughly behind the Health and Rec Association's Lincoln Avenue buildings. As is the case in many trailer parks, the owners of the trailers do not own the land underneath their homes. The residents of Trailer Haven, bought by the Health and Rec Association in May 2000 from private owners, are on 30-day leases with their landlords.

The new courts will replace tennis courts located next to the Health and Rec building that are slated to be turned into a parking lot.

In all, the association will be adding 58 spaces for parking next to the gym and hot pools and 11 new spaces next to the new courts.

Kara Myers, an employee at the Health and Rec Association, said parking has become a major concern for the members and the employees of the gym. The overcrowded parking lot can become a dangerous place on busy weekends, she said.

Myers said she did not know enough about the trailer park issue to comment. Health and Rec Association Manager Pat Carney was not available for comment.

The trailer owners agreed last year to vacate the premises by July 1, 2002, and will be paid $4,000 for leaving. The association will also foot the bill to have the trailers removed from the premises if that's what the owners want.

The 12 trailers and cabins originally on the site will have to be hauled off or demolished and the residents, many of whom cannot move their trailers, will have to find new housing or new lots. Some of the trailer owners have already moved away.

In their wake they left a community struggling with the role trailer parks play in providing housing for low- and middle-income employees in a town where housing prices have far outpaced wages.

Sheri Price's rented trailer sits in the middle of the semicircular trailer park. Price, who waitresses at Johnny B. Good's and directs plays here, said the situation is just the most recent example of Steamboat losing track of its priorities.

"It's too bad that in a community this size, where public opinion and attitude can swing events, people would allow something like this to take place," she said.

More than anything, she is sad that she won't be able to stay in the trailer, almost every inch of which she has decorated. Inside, it is 850 square feet of soft-lit warmth and personality.

"This is depressing," she said. "Look at my little house. I love my house."

Price has a black and white "Hollywood bathroom" painted completely black aside from the white porcelain with pictures of Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe and a shower curtain dotted with the stars of yesterday. In her living room, the light is muted by thin white curtains hung over the windows and the tables are piled with books. From the ceiling hang potted plants and a red paper lantern. Just outside, two old trees stand in the yard.

"They're going to chop down these old trees. Why? For tennis courts," she said.

Stuart Handloff, the president of the Health and Rec Association board, said the association has tried to accommodate the trailer owners through a difficult and confrontational process.

"Certainly it wasn't the ideal situation for them, but depending on the owner of the property, they could have done a lot worse," he said.

Handloff has been on commissions charged with finding ways to provide affordable housing in the past and said he thinks a housing authority should have been created a decade ago. He said the one good thing that may come out of this debate is a renewed community interest in solving the problem.

"I would hope the community doesn't drop the importance of affordable housing in Steamboat," he said. "It needs to be something pressed continuously."

The application will be reviewed for technical elements in the next few weeks, said city planner Tom Leeson. Tennis courts are a use by right in the multifamily zone district, so the application will not need much review for larger planning issues or a zone change, Leeson said. It will go through an architectural review for issues such as landscaping.

The application will be reviewed by the City Council as a consent item usually reserved for items not requiring much review unless there is dissent from the community or other factors making it more controversial.

The city passed an ordinance last year inspired by the plight of the Trailer Haven residents and written in part by their lawyer. The ordinance makes mobile home park owners present a conversion impact report to the city if they intend to change the use of the land. The owners would also need to get a conditional-use permit to alter the use, meaning they would have to obtain permission from the city and comply with certain requirements.

The council chose to bypass an idea presented by an attorney for the trailer park to make park owners find or pay for new land for the trailers they displace.

They decided instead to ask mobile home park owners to make their "best efforts" when they do decide to close down a park and redevelop.

Best efforts would include making a list of the names of mobile home owners being displaced by a change of use and compiling a list of available sites on which to place mobile homes within a 50-mile radius. It would also impel park owners to present the city with their plans for redevelopment.

Price and other trailer home owners have said the ordinance is mainly cosmetic it doesn't do much to protect them. Trailer park owners, on the other hand, have claimed it is too restrictive and unfair.

Either way, the ordinance will not be applicable in regard to this trailer park because the residents were evicted before it went into effect, Leeson said.

Depending on whether they can find the funding to pay off the construction, the Health and Rec Association will be attempting to start building soon after the trailer owners leave and may have the courts finished as soon as September. At that point, they plan to begin construction on the new parking lot, Handloff said.

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