The Hotchkiss Planning Commission will schedule at least one more public comment session after hearing numerous complaints regarding proposed changes to the town's "Mobile Home and Travel Home Regulations" ordinance during a hearing at the Jan. 26 planning meeting.
The main concern expressed by the 14 who spoke is the perceived unfairness of the regulations, which were viewed as potentially cost prohibitive to mobile home owners and renters. Commission members say the regulations are intended to address the safety and well-being of the citizens and are not intended to target mobile home owners.
"You are targeting mobile homes," said Lenora Milligan, who lives in stick-built home and was concerned for mobile home owners. "This targets mobile homes. This targets affordable housing. This targets the poor ... and it's wrong." She asked the commission to apply the rules to all homeowners to make it fair.
Speakers expressed concern for the effects the changes could have on the elderly and people on fixed incomes, and asked the town not to put expensive restrictions on homeowners. Written comments also reflect opposition to forced inspections and the potentially high cost of the regulations.
"What the town recognizes is, we all need affordable housing," mayor Wendell Koontz told the roughly 22 citizens in attendance. "And this isn't an effort to get rid of affordable housing. This is an effort to make sure we've got safe affordable housing."
Proposed changes would require:
a ban on importation of mobile homes older manufactured more than 25 years prior to adoption of the ordinance;
all existing mobile homes manufactured after June 15, 1976, to comply with the National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974; or if manufactured prior to June 15, 1976, to comply with the Colorado Housing Act of 1970;
inspection at the time of change of ownership or transfer of utility billing to a new resident, or periodically, by the town building inspector for a reasonable fee (suggested at $75), of all existing non-conforming mobile homes to ensure that safety is being maintained and the degree of nonconformity is not increased;
that all mobile homes be skirted with fire-resistant materials.
If non-conformity violations are found during inspection, owners will have 30 days to correct violations or be required to remove the unit from town within 60 days. Existing units would be grandfathered in under the changes.
The commission has considered changes in the regulations for about a year, said commissioner and town trustee Tom Wills. He wrote the draft changes after realizing that the town's regulations define non-conforming mobile homes, but give no guidance on how the will be addressed.
Richard Couch said he owns a pre-1970 mobile home that has housed a lot of good people in its 50 years and said older units are better built and classier than newer models. He said many mobile home occupants are on fixed income. "I mean, think of what you're doing to us," said Couch. "You're really putting us up against the wall."
He asked commissioners to "really think" about what they're doing.
Some asked how the regulations would be enforced if all mobile homes and parks are grandfathered in.
Lynette Roberts, who lives out of town and owns a mobile home in town, said she understands the safety concerns, but told commissioners that some of the 100-year-old houses in town also pose safety hazards. While current code requires houses to conform to the International Building Code, they aren't being held to the same standards. "How do you know if they are up to code?" asked Roberts. "I think it's discriminatory to pick out mobile homes."
"We struggle with that, too," mayor Koontz told Roberts.
William Brown asked about the existing requirement that units not occupied for any 10-month period be removed within 90 days of receiving a written notice. "Would that include if you have a rental and it didn't rent, even though you've advertised it," asked William Brown, who lives out of town and owns two rental units in town.
More than 20 citizens attended the hearing. "It's good to see a full house, said mayor Wendell Koontz. "We don't often see this on planning commission."
The commission will take all of the comments and recommendations back to the drawing board, said Koontz. They anticipate taking several weeks to respond to all of the comments. The next public hearing on the proposed changes will be posted on the town website, www.townofhotchkiss.com.