Council wants options

City wants help for displaced mobile-home owners

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The City Council said it wanted developers to provide help to the mobile-home owners who will be displaced by the proposed commercial and residential development.

Developer Jim Cook presented a pre-application plan for about 50 residential units and more than 7,000 square feet of commercial space between Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street and Third and Fourth streets.

If approved, the River Walk project would displace more than 100 people who live in the 39 mobile homes at the Westland Trailer Park.

The 2 1/2 hour hearing in Centennial Hall on Tuesday night had dozens of residents speaking out against the project.

City Council members do not vote on pre-application plans but gave feedback on the project. The council unanimously agreed that the developers should come back with a more concrete relocation plan for the mobile-home owners.

"I am going to be looking for a solution when it comes to relocation," Councilman Steve Ivancie said. "Where are these people going to go?"

Ivancie said the plan should prompt the city to move forward on allowing smaller lot subdivision, where mobile-home owners could own the land under their homes.

"We need to go, and we need to get aggressive (on finding) a place where people could afford to own and buy land within the city limits," Ivancie said.

Councilwoman Susan Dellinger said Tuesday's discussion would continue to plague the council as other trailer parks sold land for redevelopment.

"This is an item that is going to come up multiple times," Dellinger said. "It's going to affect 350 to 400 families."

The more than 39 mobile homes in the park total more than $1 million in value, the Routt County Assessor's Office indicates. The average value of a home in Westland Trailer Park is $26,000.

Many of the homes are in too poor condition to move or are not acceptable at other parks, homeowners told the council. If the land were redeveloped, most of those homes would have to be demolished, with homeowners losing their investment, mobile-home owner Joe Firsch said.

The mobile-home owners help make up the heart of Steamboat, Christina Allevato said.

Allevato, who has lived in the trailer park for eight years, said she has one of the few houses that could move out of the trailer park and into another, but the only open spaces available are in Oak Creek and Craig.

"It's a long drive to commute," Allevato said.

Cook said the developers have worked on the problem. The Regional Affordable Living Foundation has worked to put together a homebuyers seminar for the residents, Cook said.

Plans are being looked at for other affordable housing developments, and the developers have considered giving relocation packages to the homeowners.

"We have not stuck our heads in the sand," Cook said. "We have tried to connect with them from day one."

Cook admitted the residents would not find options allowing them to live along the river in Old Town. But 10 percent of the units in the proposed development would be targeted for those who work in the Old Town area and make 80 percent or less than the median income.

Westland Trailer Park owner James Osbourn said his tenants have known since 1991 that the land their trailers sat on was for sale. Since the 1970's, Osbourn said he has worked with the city to someday turn the land into a commercial and residential development.

Firsch said the mobile-home owners tried to buy the land a few years ago, but the deal fell apart when the asking price was more than the appraised value. With outside help and the proposed project looming, Firsch said an attempt at buying the land might work.

Residents urged the council to give mobile-home owners more protection. The city does have an ordinance in place, but it acts merely as a way to inform mobile-home owners that the land is for sale or under contract.

President Paul Strong said to strengthen that ordinance would have endangered other mobile home parks from coming into Steamboat.

"If we put too many restrictions, we will never have another one in Steamboat," he said.

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