Council decision stirs up neighbors

Published on Thu, Aug 23, 2001 by Meg Olson

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Council decision stirs up neighbors

By Meg Olson

As tinkering continues with the city’s manufactured home rules, neighbors of a property singled out by city council as an exception to those rules want a level playing field or no ballgame.

“If we can change the ordinance at its very inception to benefit one property owner, why not scrap the whole thing?” said John Penno. Penno owns an acre to the southwest of the lone parcel on Lincoln Lane council plans to allow a manufactured home on at the request of owner Ron Freeman and a potential buyer in tears. Penno spoke on behalf of a group of seven neighboring property owners who oppose changing the city’s ordinance to allow a single property owner to have a manufactured home on a residential lot while forbidding them in the rest of the city outside of manufactured home subdivisions. “Amending the ordinance without neighborhood input gives the appearance of favoritism,” Penno said.

Council voted July 23 to approve Freeman’s request to allow one manufactured home on the parcel, which can be subdivided into four when city services are available. Freeman argued that the parcel was under the power lines and bordered by other lots with manufactured homes, and therefore not suitable to stick built housing. Council member John Liebert supported Freeman’s request after having visited the site and spoken with neighbors. “The majority of people I visited with have no objection,” he said.

Penno said council had incomplete and inaccurate information when they made their decision. “Council made their decision without proper input and some that wasn’t right,” he said. He pointed out on a map that the power lines do not run over the Freeman property but beside it, and most neighboring properties have stick-built homes. “What’s not suitable? It’s an inexpensive lot with water and sewer. Why not build a stick-built home?” Penno said.

Liebert didn’t talk to any members of Penno’s group before making a recommendation to council. “I know he spoke to some people but he didn’t call me,” he said.

“This was simply a fast shuffle and we want due process,” Penno said. He said developing areas east of Blaine need careful consideration about stormwater, drainage and sewer issues as well as land use, and public involvement was critical to council making good decisions. “There’s no way they can know what the situation is on the hill. I feel sorry for them,” he said.

At their Monday meeting, city council members will formally make changes to the manufactured home ordinance and the Freeman property exemption is on the table. City manager Gary Tomsic said staff, who had opposed council approving the exception, would have several options. “There are a couple of ways to go on it and we’ll discuss those,” he said.

The option of reversing their position is available to council members but could open up a can of worms, as Freeman sold the property when council gave the go-ahead for a manufactured home. “I don’t know what the implications would be,” Tomsic said.

Also being considered is an amendment that would give owners of aging manufactured homes some breathing room. Under the new manufactured home regulations, manufactured homes on residential lots need to be replaced with stick frame houses when the owner decides to replace the structure. The proposed change would allow a one-time replacement of an existing manufactured or mobile home with a new manufactured home in areas of the city where they are not allowed under the new rules, providing the owner lived in the home and it was replaced within five years.

At their June 18 meeting, council members unanimously supported the idea, but some took exception to putting a time limit on how long owners had to replace their homes. “We’re telling people they’re going to replace that within five years or die in it!” said council member Frank Bresnan Jr.”

Community development director Terry Galvin said the time limit was intended as an incentive to drive the replacement of older, decrepit homes. “On the one hand it’s an incentive but on the other it’s inflammatory,” said Ken Ely. “Maybe market forces make the date unnecessary.” Galvin clarified that council could keep extending the date the ordinance would sunset if they felt property owners needed more time.
“We are giving them some opportunity with this,” said John Liebert. “It’s a decent compromise to not allowing it at all.”

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