Hotchkiss council held a public discussion and a first reading of the latest draft of the Mobile Home and Travel Homes Regulations at the Nov. 10 public meeting. After almost two years of dialogue and revisions, one issue, a 25-year age limit on trailers imported into town limits, is the final objection held by mobile home and mobile home park owners and some members of council.
Park owners attended the meeting to ask that they be allowed to import trailers that meet the 1976 HUD mobile home standards, regardless of age. They asked council to consider that their decisions can affect the availability of affordable housing in an already challenging economic climate.
Trustee Tom Wills noted that new conventional homes must be built to current building codes, but they're asking that a trailer only has to meet a 1976 standard. He compared using HUD standards to building homes to 1976 Universal Building Code. The argument is that if someone wants to build a new stick-built home, they have to build it to current building codes, but someone can import a trailer built to the 1976 standards.
Under the draft ordinance, existing mobile homes are grandfathered in and are not subject to age limits. The rule would apply only to units being brought into town.
Because Hotchkiss allows trailers to be placed on building lots, an older mobile home can also affect a neighbor's property values. In a 2004 town survey, 50 percent of respondents said they don't like that law because having an old trailer next door can devalue their property, said Wills.
"I think people have a right to live on their own property," said trustee Larry Jakubiak, who has repeatedly voiced opposition to the age limit. The homes should be safe and up to code, "But this council does not have the right to tell them where they can put a trailer and what age it has to be if it is up to code," said Jakubiak. "If you own the property, do with it what you want."
Opponents also argue that a mobile home can be older than 25 years and still meet HUD standards. Building inspector John Cavan said HUD was created to help with low-income housing. A lot of federal programs exist to improve older mobile homes with upgrades like new insulation or energy-efficient windows. "Just because a structure's old doesn't mean that it's unlivable," said Cavan. As the code inspector, Caven said he has no problem with allowing older homes into town, "Just as long as they're safe."
Wills also argued that older homes aren't energy efficient and can cost hundreds of dollars a month to heat in winter. Park owner Dan Bolton suggested the market should determine what people can afford.
Mayor Wendell Koontz asked Caven if a definition of the standards for quality could be written into the ordinance that would make sense and would be fair to all parties. Cavan said he thinks they could.
Trustees will consider adoption of the revised regulations at the Dec. 8 council meeting.