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Hotchkiss continues to fine tune mobile home regs

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The Hotchkiss Town Council will again consider draft changes to the town's "Mobile Home, Mobile Home Park and RV Park Regulations" following an Oct. 13 public hearing. Trustees heard from a handful of citizens about how proposed changes unfairly target affordable housing and may impact the availability of affordable housing in the town.

The proposed changes are based on changes brought before the public at a Jan. 27 Planning Commission hearing. Several citizens heavily criticized some of the changes, which included mandatory periodic inspections, paid for by the homeowner; strict age requirements trailers imported into the town; and for being unfair, since they wouldn't apply to other homes and homeowners.

The proposed changes are intended to raise the standards for mobile homes and put regulations in line with the international building codes for houses, explained Trustee Tom Wills, who also serves on the planning commission. "If you build a house now, you have to build it to the international code," and it has to pass inspection.

When changes were first being considered in 2015, a fire occurred in an in-town mobile home, explained Wills. That resulted in the proposal for mandated, periodic inspection of all mobile homes, including skirting, siding and wood stoves. Homeowners would have also been required to pay for the inspections. That didn't fly well in January, said Wills. While the suggestion grew out of concern for the safety of the citizens, it was determined to be unfair and was scrubbed, since it doesn't apply to all homeowners.

The proposed requirement that newly-installed units will be no more than 25 years old was reconsidered. To keep in line with federal regulations, trustees will consider in its place a requirement that homes made before 1976, the year the Department of Housing and Urban Development adopted the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards, be considered non-conforming.

Wills said language was also clarified to state that this applies only to mobile homes being imported. Every mobile home in town will be grandfathered in as soon as the ordinance is adopted, said Wills.

In considering an age limit, trustee Mary Hockenbery said she would rather see the town focus on whether a unit is up to code, rather than on its age. She urged removal of language that would allow for subjectivity by the town. Rather than impose a 25-year age limit, she urged council to consider allowing trailers be allowed to be imported if they were made after 1976 and meet HUD standards. She also suggested that the town provide of a list of requirements for those looking to bring older trailers into town.

"It's affordable housing, and I think that's a key thing for our area," said Dan Bolton, who agreed with the 1976 cut-off date. "As a trailer park owner I would hate to be limited to a 25-year deal and subject to somebody's discretionary acceptance of a trailer."

Trustees Larry Jakubiak and Johnny Marta said they agreed with citizens' comments. "It's affordable housing," said Jakubiak. "If it's up to code I think it should be allowed to be brought in."

Hotchkiss Realtor Lynda Cannon said people moving into the area are having trouble finding affordable rental housing. Due to a shortage of affordable houses, there are qualified buyers who can't afford anything in Delta County. To put more regulations on a source of affordable housing "is really going to hurt us," she said. If something isn't available here, people will look to the next town.

The requirement that owners remove a trailer when damage by fire or other means results in a loss of more than 50 percent of its value also be scratched. After the January hearing, said Wills, trustees changed the requirement to allow for exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

Older trailers aren't worth much, argued Glen Miles, who owns a trailer park. He said it's easy to lose half the value of an old trailer and still be able to successfully and affordably restore it.

Under the existing regulations, all new mobile homes are required to pass an inspection, which is in line with housing regulations. Trustees agreed to adopting the requirement for flame-resistant siding and tie-downs on newly-installed homes. Wills said tie-downs are a good idea anyway, and cited the August 2010 macro-burst that blew through town as an example of how powerful the area's winds can be. Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are also required at inspection, just as they are in "regular" houses under the Uniform Building Code for conventional homes, said Wills. "It kind of puts everybody on the same page."

"Now let's be clear," said Mayor Wendell Koontz. "This applies to mobile homes that are new to the town. Everything existing is grandfathered in. I want to make sure that's clear."

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