Industry welcomes realistic manufactured home rules

Published on Thu, Mar 29, 2001 by Meg Olson

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Industry welcomes realistic manufactured home rules

By Meg Olson

They may be strict, but Blaine’s proposed regulations would allow manufactured homes to be installed within Blaine city limits, and proponents are giving the new rules a tentative thumbs up.

“If anything could pass it would be better than nothing,” said Ray Acheson, sales manager for Coach Corral, a manufactured home retailer in Ferndale. “If there are hoops we need to jump through, make them reasonable.”

At a March 22 public hearing before the Blaine planning commission, manufactured home owners, manufacturers and retailers argued that with good standards, manufactured homes can be a valuable addition to neighborhoods. “If you’d like me to come in and get rid of old junky mobile homes, you have to let me put in new ones,” Acheson said.

“Manufactured homes are not trailer trash, it’s good housing,” said Chuck Westfall of Coast Construction, adding that it often represented the most affordable option for first-time owners or low-income families. “I’ve put in lots of manufactured homes. Some I drive by and really don’t want to admit to, while others I’m proud to be involved with. Like any other home, it comes down to pride of ownership.”

Westfall agreed, however, that neighborhood integrity was important. “I agree putting a manufactured home next to a $300,000 stick built home could be an issue, so I know there need to be standards,” he said.

The proposed regulations would replace existing zoning laws prohibiting mobile or manufactured homes outside of mobile/ manufactured home parks. Blaine has one, and it’s full. New regulations offer three options to expand placement of man-

ufactured homes: allowing new mobile/manufactured home parks to be built in certain zones, a new designation of manufactured home subdivision, which would have lower density than parks, and allowing manufactured homes in residential zones if they meet “acceptable similarity” appearance standards.

“As community and economic development director I would determine what fits and what wouldn’t,” said Terry Galvin. “There needs to be architectural similarity and harmony. It gets to esthetics and property values – not one or the other but both.”

If proposed regulations are adopted by city council, manufactured homes in residential neighborhoods would need to be new multi-wide units with a vertical rise of four inches for each twelve feet of horizontal run, a steeper pitch than most manufactured homes. They would require continuous, permanent foundations, adequate accessory buildings to store cars and lawnmowers, and exterior finish similar to that used for stick built homes. They would also need to be architecturally compatible with neighboring homes and worth not less than 90 percent of their value.

“The industry’s position is they feel very strongly that cities do have the right to regulate manufactured housing. Our concern has always been that you deal with it on an equal footing with site-built housing – that you apply the same standards to both,” said Bob Shoos, representing the Washington Manufactured Housing Association.

Westfall asked why only manufactured homes would be required to have more steeply pitched roofs. “You’ll see plenty of site built ramblers around with 3/12 rise roofs,” he said. Westfall agreed, however, that full foundations were appropriate. “It does make the home look better,” he said.

Jamie Scott, who lives in a newer manufactured home on 10th Street said manufactured homes shouldn’t be required to have accessory structures if other homes weren’t. “I can keep my own yard clean but if I live next door to Sanford and Son, whose property value is diminished?” he asked.

Acheson said requiring manufactured homes to be worth 90 percent of their site-built neighbors wasn’t compatible with the reason consumers choose manufactured housing – a lower cost per square foot. “I’d have to put in much larger homes on a lot to meet the valuation requirements and then there would be no room for a garage,” he said. Shoos added that appraisers have a bias against manufactured housing, and consistently undervalue it, compounding the problem.

Planning commission chairman Brad O’Neill said there would be no hasty decisions on manufactured home standards. “This is a complicated issue and we feel it’s important to give it proper hearing,” he said.

At a March 29 work session, 5:15 p.m. at city hall, planning commissioners and staff will revise the current proposal based on input received so far. More public comment is sought, and the public hearing has been continued to April 12, 7 p.m.

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