LaHarpe debates mobile home laws

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February 1, 2018 - 12:00 AM

LAHARPE — An occasionally feisty debate regarding used mobile homes gained some clarity Tuesday, as LaHarpe City Council members discussed revamping the city’s ordinances for such structures.
A number of compromises were reached, most notably a provision that forbids older units from being brought into town.
The existing ordinance — one favored by some of the Council — prohibits any such mobile or prefabricated home if it’s older than 10 years.
Rather than extend that threshold to 20 years, as suggested at a previous meeting by Councilman Danny Ware Jr., Council members agreed 15 years was a fair compromise.
The issue surfaced about two months ago when Mike and Tisha Maloney requested the city to allow them to place a 19-year-old mobile home in the 1100 block of South Washington Street.
The city granted them a variance for the older structure. A Feb. 14 public meeting is next, at which time the Maloneys must obtain a permit, provided neighboring landowners approve of their request.
Aside from the age, the home is in impeccable shape, the Maloneys said, and is worth considerably more than either of the two demolished homes that formerly occupied that block..

COUNCILMAN David Lee, however, noted allowing the home comes with a risk in that it opens the door for others to bring in older mobile homes into LaHarpe for use as rental properties, potentially depressing neighboring property values.
The Maloneys will not live in the mobile home, but rather will allow relatives to stay there.
Ware noted the other requirements asked by the city — proper wiring, full inspections, etc. —  require enough investment to deter landowners from bringing in substandard housing.
Lee and Ware both talked about the number of calls Council members have received since the issue came to light.
“You could have brought in a brothel, and it wouldn’t have caused as much (reaction) as this has,” Ware said.
Citizens are “starting to look at the community as a whole, which is a good thing,” Lee said. “People on one side or another are taking notice, and are starting to come together. Things are moving up.”
“This mobile home is a far better improvement” over the homes that formerly occupied the block,” Ware said. “Is it an improvement that is going to last for 100 years? No, but any improvement won’t last 100 years if you don’t take care of it. But is it an improvement that will last 20 or 25 years? Yes. And if there’s a 25-year improvement in town, I’ll take it, every day.”
Lee responded, “I just hope we’re not doing it at the expense of an improvement that will last 50 or 75 years.”

THE NEW ordinance will be voted upon after all of the elements discussed Tuesday are put in writing.
Among the provisions:
— The 15-year threshold for used mobile homes will not allow for any variances. (The Maloneys, Mayor Mae Crowell noted, would be grandfathered in under LaHarpe’s existing rules, which allow variance requests.)
— Any used mobile home must be formally inspected. The city will hire an inspector, with the property owner footing the bill. Lee said allowing the property owners to select and hire their own inspectors would “be like a fox guarding the hen house.”
— If 26 percent or more neighboring landowners object to any mobile home being placed in their neighborhood, the Council is compelled to reject permits allowing its installation. The existing ordinance compelled the city to reject permits if 66 percent of the neighbors objected.
— The mobile home’s inner walls must utilize 2-by-4 or 2-by-6 lumber. Older homes utilizing 2-by-2 lumber are banned.
— Other language was cleaned up or removed altogether, such as provisions requiring 6-inch roof overhangs and gutters. Council members agreed such provisions are the owners’ responsibility, not the city’s.

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