By almost any standard, being told it’s time to pack up and move somewhere else is, at best, an unpleasant experience.
But Spokane Valley City Council members were in agreement Tuesday that restricting private property rights is worse.
So rather than seek to amend the city’s comprehensive plan that would place more restrictive zoning on manufactured-home park owners – which, in turn, would provide more protection to home owners within the parks – the council directed staff to instead seek to increase the housing density within the parks.
That, said Council Member Dean Grafos, would be a better approach to sustaining the life of the manufactured-home parks and allowing their owners more flexibility.
“At a higher density, it’s more economically feasible to hold rents down and retain those parks,” he said. “I think that’s a much better approach.”
For the better part of the past year, Spokane Valley City Council meetings have been awash of green-shirted representatives of the Association of Manufactured Home Owners, who are part of a statewide effort for jurisdictions to adopt stricter zone provisions for mobile-home park areas to dissuade them from converting their properties to another use.
In February, city staff told the council that the city of Tumwater, which had passed such restrictions, was in the midst of a court case brought forward by those contending the rules were unconstitutional. While that city prevailed in court, Cary Driskell, Spokane Valley city attorney, cautioned the council to “not put too much faith” in that decision and to “use caution.”
City staffers also surveyed six of the larger manufactured-home park owners in Spokane Valley to gather their opinions. While most said they had no future plans for their property other than their current use, they weren’t too keen on more restrictions being placed upon them.
Robert Cochran -- state president of the Manufactured Housing Communities of Washington, the same organization that challenged Tumwater’s zoning – told city officials that there are already enough protections in state law for residents of manufactured-home parks. He also said that the restrictive zoning perpetuates the existence of substandard homes, as there are fewer means to improve the property.
Council Member Arne Woodard, who works in real estate, said the issue is a sticky one but ultimately comes down to property rights.
“There are lease rights and there are land-holder rights,” he said. “It’s a complicated issue.”