Saturday, May 5, 2001
While affordable housing continues to be a top priority in Steamboat Springs, its burden should not be shouldered by a select few.
A mobile home ordinance under consideration by the City Council, which has been spearheaded by area trailer park residents, is shortsighted and patently unfair to property owners.
City Council reviewed the proposal this week that would make owners of mobile home parks responsible for what happens to the residents of the parks if owners choose to change the use of the land.
The ordinance, called the "No net loss of mobile home housing ordinance," was originally presented by attorney Bob Weiss. Ron Smith, an attorney working for the Trailer Haven residents who have been evicted from the park, subsequently amended it.
The ordinance also calls for the land where a trailer park currently sits to be redesignated "trailer park," so owners could not change use without applying for rezoning.
"We have been living in limbo for more than a year, searching for a solution to this problem," said Nancy Preston, a resident of Trailer Haven. "Passage of this ordinance gives owners and residents a chance to maintain their security."
This ordinance certainly maintains the security of mobile home owners and residents of mobile home parks. But it completely ignores the handful of trailer park owners in Steamboat who have offered affordable housing for many years. It forces them to continue making that contribution.
If the city forces a "trailer park" designation on a plot of land, it should compensate those landowners for any loss of value the property owner may experience as a result. If it doesn't, it will certainly face a slew of lawsuits. Rezoning trailer park properties now to correct for past shortsightedness is not the best way to plan for the future.
Mobile home parks provide an affordable option to residents and their families who otherwise might have no option at all.
But this option should not come at the expense of property rights.
Rather, city officials, while they update the Community Development Code, should designate some vacant land surrounding the city as appropriate for trailer park use. The city could waive fees to make such projects profitable for landowners and ultimately, the number of trailer park lots available in and near the area would increase.
Affordable housing is and probably will always remain an extremely important issue in Steamboat.
But the property rights of a few can't be compromised to solve the affordable housing problem that belongs to the community as a whole.