Mobile-home issue discussed

Council wants to strengthen mobile-home owners' rights

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City Council members said Tuesday night they want to increase protection of mobile-home owners and encourage new parks.

Council President Paul Strong advocated developing regulations that would help build new mobile-home parks and supported giving mobile-home owners the first right of refusal if a park owner decides to sell.

"It's a wonderful thing to do for mobile-home owners, and it would not hurt landowners because they still get that dollar," Strong said.

Councilman Steve Ivancie said the city needs to prevent more mobile-home parks from converting to other uses and should look at subdividing city-owned land into smaller lots or for building mobile homes.

He also supported requiring developers to have no net loss of affordable housing units if the parks are converted and to provide a relocation plan if the parks change uses. "We need to be proactive, we need to take advantage of the opportunity, we need to explore funding options," Ivancie said. "I am very optimistic we are going to solve this problem."

Other council members did not voice such strong opinions, saying an ordinance protecting mobile-home owners should balance the rights of the homeowners and landowners. Council members discussed the legal problems the city could face if it changes mobile-home parks from commercial to mobile-home zoning without the park owners' consent, or requires developers to provide relocation packages to mobile owners.

"People who have the property have some rights. We need to find a way to balance that," Councilman Loui Antonucci said.

Close to 100 people crammed into Centennial Hall to give public comment, hear city staff's presentation on what the city legally could do to protect mobile-home owners and listen to the council's comments.

City Attorney Tony Lettunich questioned the survival of any ordinance in the courts or state Legislature requiring developers to pay relocation costs with the state's staunch support of individual property rights.

"I think it would be a tough, uphill battle, and we would be going it alone," Lettunich said. "Virtually no one else in the state does this."

Kathi Meyer, president of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, said the authority recognizes that addressing the need for mobile homes will be among its top priorities. She spoke of ways the organization could help existing mobile-home owners and encourage new development.

The city has close to 450 mobile homes, representing about 6 percent of its housing stock. Ninety percent of all mobile-home occupants are full-time residents, and 11 percent of all renters are in mobile homes.

During Tuesday's discussion, mobile-home owners emphasized the diversity and services they provide to the community and their need for protection when park owners decide to sell. They also asked for help if they ever try to buy the land that sits underneath their home.

"I don't feel it is right for me to be forced out of a community that I helped build because the land I sit on has become desirable to a developer," mobile-home owner and advocate Bobbi Hodge said.

Under the city's existing mobile-home ordinance, park owners must present a conversion impact report to the city if they intend to redevelop the land. The owners also need to get a conditional-use permit to change the use from a mobile-home park.

The ordinance, created in the wake of the loss of Trailer Haven, did not require park owners to find or pay for new land for the displaced mobile-home owners. Instead, the ordinance asks developers to make their "best efforts" when mobile-home owners are being displaced. Developers are asked to give mobile-home owners a list of the available mobile sites within a 50-mile radius.

Representatives from the Colorado Coalition for Mobile, Manufactured Home Residents Rights attended the meeting. Legislative Liaison Gerald Allmer said it is the mobile-home park owners' responsibility to compensate the tenants if the park changes uses.

"What happens, people who live in homes are picking up the tab for some land owners who don't want to have any obligation when they sell the property for $4 million," Allmer said.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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