Manufactured housing issue bedevils city council

Published on Thu, May 24, 2001 by Meg Olson

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Manufactured housing issue bedevils city council

By Meg Olson

With the clock ticking on the manufactured home moratorium, Blaine city council members continue to squirm over proposed regulations governing where and how they can be placed in Blaine.

At their second workshop on a planning commission recommendation for a manufactured home ordinance, council members focused on the infrastructure challenges to putting manufactured home parks and subdivisions in the planned residential area and decided they still needed to hear from the public.

After a series of public hearings, planning commissioners on April 26 unanimously recommended that manufactured homes not be allowed in most Blaine residential neighborhoods. Planners proposed they be allowed in manufactured home parks and subdivisions in an area east of Lincoln Park and west of Harvey Road.

At a workshop preceding their May 14 regular meeting, council members questioned the wisdom of locating manufactured home subdivisions in east Blaine, where limited extension of city roads and utilities might prevent their development.

“I think we have a need for this type of housing,” said Frank Bresnan Jr. “I’d like public works to justify why they would need to be hooked up to the sewer system, which can be very, very, expensive. A properly operating on-site system can be better for the environment than a public sewer.” Assistant public works director Steve Banham said there was special concern about groundwater contamination in east Blaine, especially east of Harvey Road, which is part of the recharge area for the city’s watershed.

“We’re marrying two things that we don’t need to marry at this point,” said mayor Dieter Schugt. “We can deal with the manufactured home ordinance but we don’t have to have all the answers to how infrastructure out to Harvey Road is going to take place.”

City manager Gary Tomsic said the point where the two issues intersected was whether those infrastructure costs would make it unfeasible to build manufactured parks or subdivisions in the area they are being proposed. “If you determine the infrastructure needs are so expensive they’re likely never to occur, you’re creating a place for these things to happen where they’ll never happen,” he said. “It’s going to take a public/private partnership to go in and make it work.”

Some council members wavered on banning manufactured homes as infill in the rest of the city. Ken Ely wondered why specific enough criteria could not be developed that would only allow manufactured homes of similar appearance and value to their stick-built neighbors. “It seems to me if the criteria were severe enough, a leveling would occur,” he said. Community and economic development director Terry Galvin said planning commissioners had felt that was not achievable. “There is a threshold above which the planning commission felt manufactured homes - their quality, style, physical characteristics - would not allow that compatibility to fully take place,” he said.

City council will discuss proposed manufactured home rules at a May 29 workshop, starting at 6 p.m. Following the workshop, council members encourage members of the public to comment on proposed changes during the comment period that leads off the regular council meeting at 7 p.m.

Planning staff have asked that the ordinance be approved or rejected at that meeting, prior to the current moratorium on manufactured housing expiring on June 10. Copies of the proposed ordinance are available from the city’s community and economic development department..

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