First test of manufactured house ordinance gets teary win

Published on Thu, Jul 26, 2001 by Meg Olson

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First test of manufactured house ordinance gets teary win

By Meg Olson

Faced with the entreaties of a local property developer and tears from a prospective buyer, city council set aside the recently adopted manufactured home ordinance.

At their July 23 meeting council members voted unanimously to allow a manufactured home on an undeveloped parcel now owned by Ron Freeman on Lincoln Lane.

“This makes sense,” said city council member John Liebert at the July 23 city council meeting. “Granted it’s not in the framework we’ve designed, but that’s why we’re here. To make those kinds of decisions when people in our community don’t fit into the box.”

Freeman had argued that the property, located under the Bonneville Power transmission lines and bordered by lots developed with manufactured homes, was not suited to a stick built house. “My property has been negatively impacted by this ordinance,” Freeman said. “I would not build a stick frame home on this property. It’s really suited for a manufactured home because that’s what the neighborhood is.”

The city’s new manufactured home ordinance requires site-built homes on all single family lots outside of newly designated manufactured home subdivisions. While those subdivisions are allowed in east Blaine, none have been developed. “I can’t take Sonya to east Blaine and sell her a lot. Maybe in a few years, but not today,” Freeman said.

Sonya Forsberg said she intended to buy the one-acre parcel and put one manufactured home on it. The parcel is now serviced with a septic field and cannot be subdivided. If the area is sewered it could be divided into four lots.

Liebert said he had visited the site and spoken with neighbors. “The majority of the people I visited with had no objection to a manufactured home going in there, considering what was there,” he said. “I am in favor of making an exception for this one time, keeping in mind that I am disagreeing with our planning department.”

City community development director Terry Galvin had opposed making an exception for Freeman’s property, arguing that it opened the door for other property owners who weren’t happy with their zoning to ask city council to change it. In drafting the ordinance, Blaine’s planning commissioners had considered allowing manufactured homes on single lots if they met a standard of “acceptable similarity,” but decided against it because of the subjective nature of the criteria.

Some council members expressed concern about the precedent they were setting. “I’m a little leery of granting a special exemption,” said Bonnie Onyon. “The idea that this area seemed suited to manufactured homes could apply to other areas as well.” Marsha Hawkins was also concerned that allowing a manufactured home on the one-acre parcel would mean four of the units could be allowed after sewers led to a higher density.

After Forsberg burst into tears, council members quickly agreed that allowing the manufactured home as a “one-time exception” was the best solution and voted unanimously to approve it. “Even though it seems to be flying in the face of our ordinance, it’s a win-win situation,” said Ken Ely.

“I don’t think there are going to be 50 people in here asking us to change the ordinance,” Hawkins said. Whether it’s 50 or five, city manager Gary Tomsic said the council action was likely to come back to haunt them. “This won’t be the last time we deal with this issue now,” he said..

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