Photo by George Lauby
Pat Peterson and Doug Nelson face the council
Photo by City of North Platte
Even trashed homes like this cannot be demolished under existing city ordinances, building inspector Norm Franken said.
It’s all ahead full, but back to the drafting board for a set of minimum standards for mobile homes in North Platte.
A half-dozen mobile home park owners objected to tougher housing standards in a discussion with the city council that lasted more than an hour. In the end, the council advanced the standards on to the final reading but encouraged mobile home park owners to resolve their differences with city zoning officials before coming back.
It was a busy night for the council. They also approved construction of two new Verizon cell phone towers and turned down a request for a new dump truck for the water department.
When it came to moblie home standards, planning and building officials staunchly defended them.
The council has considered the standards since early-January. They tabled the regulations on second reading on Jan. 22 after Doug Nelson, the manager of Riverside Park, told the council that his empty lots were too small for a mobile home that would have 900-square-feet of floor space – one of the initial requirements.
City administrator Jim Hawks organized a meeting on Feb. 4 with some park owners and several provisions were deleted, including the floor space requirement. The council generally approved the standards on Feb. 18 in a work session.
But Patrick Peterson of Lakewood, Colo., who owns the Mobile Home Manor trailer park, said he didn’t know a thing about the proposals until Feb. 3. He said he promptly drove 260 miles to meet with Hawks and building inspectors.
Peterson said the proposals prevent him from buying a old mobile home, moving it onto his lot and fixing it up.
“I would have to rent land where the home is, pay someone to travel there and fix it up, and then have it inspected, before I could move it,” he said.
Peterson suggested the city issue a building permit to allow someone to fix up the home, have it inspected and get an occupancy permit before anyone could move in.
But city officials said too many homes have been moved to North Platte with good intentions but never fixed up. They are generally abandoned.
“People do a little bit here and there and it never gets done,” Councilman Tim Barrett said.
Peterson said mobile home park owners want to clean up dilapidated properties, just like the city.
“If you ask our help, we can accomplish a good ordinance,” he said.
Zoning administrator Judy Clark said the standards have been in the working stages for more than two years. Building inspector Norm Franken said he has contacted many park managers in North Platte.
When Franken said that, two park owners stood up from the audience and said they were never contacted -- Elizabeth Beuhler of Golden, Colo., who owns Westgate Mobile Home Park, and Nelson, who spoke to the council in January and spurred some changes.
Beuhler said she didn’t learn about the proposals until after the Feb. 4 meeting.
She said some older mobile homes are in good shape. She provides housing in the range of $350-$1,000 a month.
“Not everyone can afford more,” she said.
“We’re not going to make all of the mobile home owners happy,” Councilman Brook Baker said during the discussion. “We have to find that happy middle ground. We have to stop bringing depleted mobile homes into North Platte.”
Beuhler said if the city would reach out to more park owners, “We would have a good group to solve these issues.”
At the request of Councilwoman Michelle McNea, Clark said the root of the problem lies with homes that are not fit to live in. She passed around photos of a recently occupied home with holes in the corners of the floors, sagging windows and broken locks.
Clark said nearly three years ago, a Health Impact Assessment Committee found people were living in homes with moldy ceilings, floors falling in, holes in walls and paying $500-700 a month rent.
Clark said the city can inspect multiple family homes, but not single family homes, under current ordinances.
“We are just trying to make sure they are livable,” she said.
Hawks said he and several park owners had a good discussion on Feb. 4.
“We tried to incorporate several changes after that meeting,” Hawks said.
During the discussion, mobile home owners said the city is punishing all park owners because of a few bad eggs.
A representative of the Manufactured Homes Association said the city needs to give building inspectors the ability to “get rid of the junk” -- with more teeth in ordinances to condemn, claim and demolish old mobile homes.
Clark said setting standards for homes coming into North Platte is the first step.
“We are trying to be proactive instead of reactive,” Baker said.
Peterson said the mobile home park owners agree more needs to be done to fix dilapidated properties.
At the end, the council advanced the standards to third reading, but urged the owners to talk to Clark. During the discussion, Hawks said he would be willing to host another meeting.
After the meeting, Franken told the Bulletin that he city hardly has the clout to get rid of abandoned mobile homes that are trashed.
He said some are owned by tax attorneys. Some owners don’t have the money to tear them down or fix them up, or only have enough money to fix up one or two, but don’t make progress otherwise.
Franken said he’s been working with a mobile home park owner for six years to clean up 10 old homes and three of them are still standing. Meanwhile, mobile homes that were condemned elsewhere have been moved into town.