Blaine City Council voted 5-2 during its July 10 meeting to uphold its decision to enact a six-month emergency moratorium on processing manufactured home park building permit applications. Over 20 people spoke during a public hearing before the vote while others brimmed the council chambers to listen.
City council approved the moratorium May 22 to allow time for city staff to clean up code inconsistencies. The underlying zoning code allows for manufactured home parks but the planned unit development (PUD) code does not. Manufactured home parks that are five acres or larger are required to be developed as PUDs.
Blaine city code only allows manufactured home parks in east Blaine’s planned residential zone, which runs east of 15th Street to city limits and from the U.S./Canada border to H Street Road. Manufactured homes can be built on individual properties within city limits.
The debate on whether to allow manufactured home parks in Blaine began after east Blaine developers Skip and Katie Jansen met with city staff in fall 2021 to discuss building a manufactured home park on their East Harbor Hills property, between The Ridge at Harbor Hills and Grandis Pond. Skip Jansen said city staff pointed out the PUD conflict during the meeting and encouraged the developers to apply for a text amendment request, which required going through the public process. Skip Jansen previously said he believes the code inconsistencies originate from code changes in the 2000s.
East Blaine residents strongly opposed the text amendment request and raised concerns of homeownership, property tax revenue and environmental impact during planning commission meetings. The Jansens withdrew the request before the May planning commission meeting and threatened legal action if denied the opportunity to make an application. Council shortly after approved the emergency moratorium.
This meeting was the first that drew a sizable crowd in support of manufactured home parks with supporters showing up as residents and real estate professionals.
East Blaine resident Bob Boule said he was in favor of a senior manufactured home park that would allow aging adults to stay in Blaine.
“It is definitely needed and it has been overlooked for the seniors who are trying to downsize for quite a period of time,” Boule said.
East Blaine resident Don Kruse said he wanted the moratorium to be upheld.
“I think it’s irresponsible to have that density of housing in east Blaine,” he said. “This doesn’t just open the door for one parcel, it opens the door for the entire east Blaine.”
East Blaine resident Tina Erwin said she objected to the developer owning the land under the home.
“The problem is if you are on a budget, a manufactured home in a park, owned by a developer, is not your cheapest way to go,” Erwin said. “You do not own the land. The developer can raise the rates as much as he wants.”
City council candidate Sonia Hurt said the city needs a variety of housing options. Some people want to build equity, while others want to rent, she said.
“I would highly recommend that you discontinue this moratorium and allow the developers to go ahead and put a plan forth,” Hurt said. “It sounds like we will have the opportunity to look at whatever environmental impact it will have. I can’t believe that we would just turn it down flat because we’re afraid to face it and take action.”
The Jansens, their attorney Inger Brockman and consultant Craig Parkinson spoke during the hearing.
Brockman argued the city’s reasoning for a moratorium fell short of an emergency. Brockman said the public was debating a project that hadn’t yet been presented.
“I ask you consider whether this is an emergency or an emotional reaction to a project that is not yet on the table,” Brockman said.
Skip Jansen previously told The Northern Light that the park could be a retirement community for older adults who no longer want to maintain a home. Rental fees could pay for a clubhouse and landscaping, he said. Parkinson said the park would likely have 300 or fewer units because of regulations.
“We withdrew our text amendment and next thing we know, the moratorium is slapped on us,” Skip Jansen said. “We’ve been through this process for 1.5 years now. We’ve never had the opportunity to present a project because we’ve been unable to make an application. Meanwhile, all kinds of misinformation and conjecture have been thrown out there about what people think we’re going to do.”
If the city approved the application, Skip Jansen said the public would have time to look at the project before city council voted on it.
Councilmember Richard May said the zoning code inconsistencies would remain if the moratorium was lifted.
“Whether or not someone favors a rental park or not, having a clean and clear code and the ability to rely on that and anticipate for that would probably benefit the state of our code,” May said.
City attorney Peter Ruffatto said leaving the conflicting code would require city staff to interpret the rules, instead of council deciding what the rules should be.
“It makes it difficult for the developers because they don’t know ahead of time which way the staff will use their administrative judgment,” mayor Mary Lou Steward.
Councilmembers Eric Davidson and Rhyan Lopez said they wanted to keep the moratorium to clean the code.
Council debated how soon it would need to give city staff direction after reaffirming the moratorium. May said he has spoken to city staff about having town halls to improve communication between the public, council and staff.
Councilmember Mike Hill said he felt as though council was micromanaging developers.
“The whole thing here is frustrating because we have all of the control, we can approve or deny it, we can delay it for 30 years but we won’t even let them bring a project to the table,” Hill said.
Councilmember Garth Baldwin said he believed the city should allow manufactured home parks and was concerned they were only allowed in east Blaine.
“We got a messed up code, we don’t know what the exact plan is, we’re asked to make these decisions that will piss off half the community or piss off the other half of the community, depending which way we go,” Baldwin said. “We just need to get our shit together, get the code straight, allow for the things that need to be allowed for, and then make a decision.”
Councilmember Kerena Higgins said a manufactured home was the first home she owned. Higgins said there were no conventional lenders when she wanted to sell and had to rent the home for several years. She dropped the price to sell it, losing all of the equity she had.
“We lost our shirts. We lost a lot of money so I have personal feelings about this,” Higgins said. “I don’t think the park is a good investment for our community. There are other ways to get affordable housing for seniors and other members of our community.”
Hill and Lopez voted in opposition of the motion to uphold the moratorium. Council then voted 6-1 on a second motion to give staff preliminary direction on manufactured home park regulations during the moratorium. Higgins was the dissenting vote.
“Send the capital out of town,” Skip Jansen said during the meeting.
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