Moratorium on manufactured homes extended

Published on Thu, Mar 15, 2001 by Meg Olson

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Moratorium on manufactured homes extended

By Meg Olson

With a minimum of grumbling, city council approved extending a moratorium on manufactured housing in Blaine for a third time. “I want to be clear this is the last time I vote yes for another extension,” said Frank Bresnan Jr. at the March 12 city council meeting, one day short of a year from the date of the original 180-day moratorium. “I believe there’s a place for these facilities in the city. We need to have affordable housing.”

The ban on new mobile homes was put in place last March to give city planners time to develop guidelines for siting manufactured homes, which are currently lacking in the municipal code. The moratorium was extended for another six months in September and has now been stretched for another 90 days.

The approval of the moratorium gives city planners time to fine-tune staff proposals for new manufactured home regulations, through public hearings and the planning commission, prior to bringing them before council.

“I don’t want to come out with a few options but an array for people to
consider,” said community development director Terry Galvin. Those options will be presented at a March 22 planning commission public hearing.

Galvin said the debate over whether or not to allow manufactured housing brings in questions of esthetics, neighborhood continuity and options for low-income residents.

Manufactured homes can provide an economical alternative to frame, or “stick-built,” houses. “There’s a dollar threshold you can’t go below with stick-built houses because of the nature of the building process,” Galvin said. “Mass production of manufactured homes can mean a cost savings.”
Opponents of manufactured homes, however, have claimed that they detract from the esthetics and continuity of neighborhoods and lower property values.

“There’s a bias because manufactured homes today came out of what people think of as trailers,” Galvin said. In 1974 the federal department of housing and urban development (HUD) established new standards for permanently sited mobile or manufactured homes. “Almost every one of these units is pre-1974,” said Galvin, pointing to the units at Blaine’s only existing mobile home park on Peace Portal Drive. “Most were meant to move – they have tongues.” He said the new ordinance would prohibit installation of mobile or manufactured homes that did not meet HUD standards as residences, but existing units would be grandfathered in.

Galvin pointed out many newer manufactured homes meet similar health and safety standards as frame houses, and often lookvery similar. “Esthetically, is there really a lot of difference?” he asked of two similar buildings sitting side by side, one manufactured and one stick-built.

Proposed new regulations could contain a mixture of approaches, from changing zoning to allow the creation of manufactured home subdivisions to permitting manufactured homes on single lots if they were similar in appearance to neighboring houses.

Current city zoning only allows mobile or manufactured homes in parks, and Blaine only has one: Bel-Aire park on Peace Portal Drive, which is full. New regulations would allow new mobile/manufactured home parks to be built in certain zones, but would also create a new designation of manufactured home subdivision. The subdivisions would be permitted in the planned residential areas of the East Blaine annexation and would have lower density than parks, and need to meet the city’s road and utility requirements for subdivisions.

Galvin also suggests manufactured homes be allowed in residential zones if they meet “acceptable similarity” appearance standards. “The criteria we would establish would mean that if you can blend in, maybe we can approve you,” he said. “The missing ingredient in all of this is a qualitative assessment. The notion of banning them all doesn’t hold up. They’re already everywhere; with certain rules they can fit in.”

Applications for installation of a manufactured home on a single lot would trigger a neighborhood review process, including a public comment period and neighborhood meeting. The community development director would determine whether the proposed home met standards of compatibility with neighboring homes, and could issue approval of the home with conditions. “There are some areas which have an architectural style, a look, a coherence which makes them a community,” Galvin said. “We need to support that.”

Even if manufactured homes were allowed in single lots, Galvin said there was still a place for parks and subdivisions tailored to manufactured housing. These areas could have a higher density than residential neighborhoods, making it more affordable to own a home. “There’s a low-income housing component we need to be really conscious of,” he said. “Just allowing manufactured homes on legal single lots doesn’t address that because there are costs associated with the lots.”

With new draft regulations now ready for the review process, Galvin said he’s confident they’ll be in place before the new moratorium expires. “I expect this will come before city council in April,” he said.

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