Archive for Thursday, July 14, 2005

Mobile home parks still a council issue

July 14, 2005

Mobile home parks were again a hot topic at Monday's Baldwin City Council meeting, but building permit costs created just as much steam. There was no action taken on either topic.

About 15 people, some mobile home park owners, some of them mobile home park residents, were on hand for the second discussion by the council regarding the parks. At a previous meeting, it was learned that ordinances governing the parks weren't being followed and, in fact, that only one of four parks in the city are even zoned for such use.

City staff has been working with the park owners since the last meeting and compromises are being reached regarding nonconforming uses. The compromising includes allowing the current infringements on right-of-ways and setbacks, but that once trailers are moved, adjustments will have to be made to do away with those.

"The whole crux of this is to bring these in compliance as painlessly as possible," said Mayor Gary Walbridge. "Five years, in my mind, is plenty of time."

Walbridge also outlined the council's view midway through the ongoing discussion.

"There is no action being taken tonight," he said. "If the council is convinced that this is the way to go, that's what we'll do."

Research into mobile home regulations have found that in the mid 1960s, the issue was addressed. The regulations were also modified in the early 1970s. However, many of the records and minutes from meetings involving the discussions can't be found. Also, it's obvious to current city staff members that the regulations were never followed.

Although the park owners agree that changes need to be made, they also feel singled out. Price Banks, a Lawrence attorney representing two of the owners, wanted to know if other noncomplying uses in the city would be addressed.

"You have a plethora of residences that are not in compliance," said Banks. "Are you going to do this with those residences, too?"

Gene Nelson, who also owns a park, said that the problems outlined by the city involve 66 mobile homes in the various parks around town. He's concerned what changes might mean.

"I request that we have a meeting with the owners before any vote is taken," Nelson said. "I want to point out this is 66 units. This is not small potatoes. If we lose any sites, that may be our profit for the year.

"What happens to the people that are living there if they have to move?" he said. "They may not be able to do that. These are low-income residents -- people who work for the city, a retired teacher, cooks. If we say no to these people, what are we telling them, that they don't belong in Baldwin? I understand it's picking on people."

Walbridge disagreed.

"It's safety," Walbridge said. "There are so close together. They are packing in there tight.

"The key thing is to move forward," he said. "We also need to assure people that we're not trying to shut anyone down."

A special meeting will be set up later with the council, city staff and owners to work out the details.

As for the building permit issue, Delbert Sheldon attended the meeting to point out his concerns. Sheldon said when he built his first group of storage units years ago, the permit cost $415. When he added another group of units in 2003, the permit cost $293. When he approached the city to build more this year, he was told the permit would cost $2,800.

"I expected it to double, but not that," Sheldon said. "I'm asking the council to take a good, hard look at this."

After lengthy discussion, including comparison of some permit fees from other area cities, it was decided that city staff would take a closer look.

"Is there some time line that I can expect a reply?" Sheldon said.

"Delbert, if you come back to the next meeting, we'll have a resolution for you," said Walbridge.

In other business, the council approved unanimously:

  • Amending sewer rates from $3.05 per 100 cubic feet to $3.50 per 100 cubic feet effective in September.
  • Amending water rates from $5.47 per 100 cubic feet to $6.29 per 100 cubic feet effective in September.
  • Entering a contract with Nutri-Jet Inc. for removal and disposition of solid waste from the Wastewater Treatment Plant at the rate of $17.25 per ton.
  • Appointing Nick Harris to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

The next city council meeting will be July 25. Normally, the council meets on the first and third Mondays of the month, but switched to the second and fourth Mondays this month because of the Fourth of July holiday.

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