Alamance County’s planning director has apparently had some second thoughts about a proposed set of rules for mobile home and RV parks that have raised quite a clamor from the proprietors of these sites in rural parts of the county.
Tonya Caddle, who currently serves as both the county’s planning and inspections director, acknowledged that she has opted not to pursue these rules for the moment when she approached the county’s board of commissioners on Tuesday to present a raft of prospective changes to the county’s unified development ordinance.
During her appearance, Caddle formally asked the commissioners to hold a public hearing next month on these amendments, which had previously received an endorsement from Alamance County’s planning board. Among the planning board’s recommendations was a collection of sweeping new limits on conglomerations of mobile homes, RVs, and other movable dwellings. Caddle informed the commissioners that she had decided to pull these limits from the rest of the package in order to give the county’s planning board another chance to refine their particulars.
“We’re recommending to take that back to the planning board,” she added during her appearance on Tuesday. “There’s been a lot of discussion since the planning board heard it.”
The proposals that Caddle sought to have bumped back to the planning board were putatively drawn up to accommodate a spike in requests for RV parks, which are currently subject to the same rules and regulations as mobile home-oriented developments.
These prospective new rules nevertheless call for tougher restrictions on both mobile homes and RVs. Among other things, they propose a sliding scale of land-spacing restrictions that would prohibit new developments from being set up within 25 to 450 feet of existing RV and mobile home parks. These zones of separation, which would vary based on the number of lots in development, would also apply to certain “protected” structures like schools, churches, and even single-family homes.
These proposed regulations had originally come to the commissioners with a unanimous nod from Alamance County’s planning board, which had mulled over their details during the course of several meetings last fall. The planning board’s members had ultimately suggested the sliding scale of land-spacing mandates as an alternative to even stricter, 1,000-foot limit that Caddle had pitched to its members.
The planning board’s recommendations have nevertheless drawn some strenuous objections from the owners and managers of several area mobile home parks – some of whom were on hand when Caddle appeared before the commissioners on Tuesday.
Critics outline concerns to commissioners
The county’s governing board heard from three of these critics during a public comment period that kicked of the proceedings that evening. This troubled trio included Cletus Dodson, who argued that the proposed land-spacing restrictions would undermine the county’s previous efforts to steer mobile homes toward locations that seemed best suited for their development.
“The commissioners previously wanted to have mobile homes in one area so they wouldn’t upset all of the residents [in single family homes]. To me, they need to go back to the drawing board with this [recommendation].” – Cletus Dodson, mobile home park owner
“The commissioners previously wanted to have mobile homes in one area so they wouldn’t upset all of the residents [in single family homes],” he explained. “To me, they need to go back to the drawing board with this [recommendation].”
The proposed regulations didn’t go over any better with Philip Morgan, who owns and manages a number of mobile home parks in areas outside the county’s cities and towns.
“The rules that they’re cooking up are unnecessarily, unjustified, discriminatory, and borderline illegal,” Morgan assured the commissioners. “The folks living in these parts don’t deserve to be treated like second-class citizens. They don’t deserve to be pushed out to the outer edges of the county.”
“The rules that they’re cooking up are unnecessarily, unjustified, discriminatory, and borderline illegal. The folks living in these parts don’t deserve to be treated like second-class citizens. They don’t deserve to be pushed out to the outer edges of the county.” – Philip Morgan, owner of mobile home parks
Morgan went on to object that, under the proposed rules, existing mobile home parks would be designated “legal nonconforming” land uses – a label he feared would prevent them from expanding or even refilling vacancies, should particular lots remain vacant for six months or more.
These same concerns were later echoed by Jeff Kirby, the co-owner of two mobile home parks in Alamance County. Kirby also expressed his misgivings that the proposed regulations could eliminate a source of affordable housing for many of the county’s less affluent residents.
“We provide a necessary service to retired, special needs and lower income households. Rules restricting future development and labeling existing mobile home parks as nonconforming will only compound the housing shortage in Alamance County.” – Jeff Kirby, co-owner of two mobile home parks
“We provide a necessary service to retired, special needs and lower income households,” he went on to inform the commissioners. “Rules restricting future development and labeling existing mobile home parks as nonconforming will only compound the housing shortage in Alamance County.”
Aside from their gripes with the proposed regulations, Kirby and his compatriots also raised some concerns over the timing of the public hearing that Caddle was expected to request from the commissioners. Originally, this hearing was to take place at the commissioners’ next regularly-scheduled gathering, which is slated to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, February 7.
Hearings on issues from planning board to be automatically scheduled in the future
The public speakers unanimously decried the prospect of a morning hearing to solicit feedback from residents who, in many cases, work during the day and are unable to take time away from their jobs to address the commissioners.
These objections were ultimately anticipated by the county’s interim attorney Debra Becktel, who broke into Tuesday’s comment period to recommend that, as a matter of policy, the commissioners reserve public hearings for their evening get-togethers, which typically take place at 6:30 p.m. on the third Monday of any given month.
Becktel also advised the commissioners to dispense with their customary procedure to have the county’s planning director formally request a public hearing for any item endorsed by the planning board. The interim county attorney noted that, under state law, the planning board’s recommendations can automatically go to the commissioners without the need for a formalistic request from the planning director.
At Becktel’s insistence, the commissioners unanimously agreed to have the planning board’s future recommendations automatically appear on the agenda for their following night meeting. In the meantime, they agreed to schedule one final hearing on the planning board’s proposed changes to the unified development ordinance – minus the contentious provisions for mobile homes and RVs.
Although the county’s governing board won’t have to immediately address any potential new rules for these transportable residences, the prospect of such regulations nevertheless elicited some passionate remarks from commissioner Pam Thompson.
“I grew up in a trailer,” Thompson acknowledged during Tuesday’s proceedings. “Trust me, we all have to live somewhere. . . and I don’t want to make it harder on folks who already have it hard on them.”