Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning/Housing Commission/Joint Study Session

Minutes
Tuesday, November 27, 2001

ASHLAND PLANNING COMMISSION

ASHLAND HOUSING COMMISSION

NOVEMBER 27, 2001

The following Planning Commissioners and Housing Commissioners were present:

Planning Commission

Housing Commission

Staff

Mike Gardiner, Chair

Joan Legg

John McLaughlin, Planning Director

Russ Chapman

Diana Goodwin Shavey

Paul Nolte, City Attorney

Alex Amarotico

Nancy Richardson

Sue Yates, Executive Secretary

Mike Morris

Absent: Larry Medinger

 

Marilyn Briggs

Richard Seidman

 

Colin Swales

Jan Vaughn

 

John Fields

Aaron Benjamin

 

Kerry KenCairn

   

Absent: Ray Kistler

   

The following Council members were present:

Mayor Alan DeBoer

Chris Hearn, Planning Commission Liaison

Cate Hartzell, Housing Commission Liaison

Cameron Hanson

INTRODUCTION

McLaughlin said discussion at this meeting centered around a new ordinance that has been drafted with regard to manufactured housing parks in Ashland.

RICH ROHDE, Oregon Action, said last year, an announcement that the Lower Pines Trailer Park residents were threatened with possible eviction and losing their homes. A number of meetings occurred to talk about what residents were facing and what they could do to stop this type of action in the future. Eventually, the residents got a reprieve, but along the way, they looked at the options and the laws dealing with closure of mobile home parks. They found that the laws, as they exist now in the state, really donít cover effectively and fairly, the closure of mobile home parks. The biggest loophole is that if residents are given one yearís notice, the residents would get no compensation. The options were limited to none as to what tenants could do with their mobile homes. The residents are homeowners who have put their life investment in their home. All would be lost because there was no opportunity to move them. If a tenant is given less than a yearís notice, the park owner would be required to pay up to $3500 in relocation costs. Rohde had a handout delineating the number of mobile home units in Ashland. We have a severe crisis in affordable housing in Ashland. We have 221 units and another 51 units in the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) providing affordable housing stock in Ashland. These people represent an important part of our human stock (of Ashland). These residents/workers are a long, stable part of our community.

Oregon Action talked to the Housing Commission about researching what kind of local options is available. They formed a committee that included some members of the Housing Commission and some residents from the mobile home parks and other representatives from community organizations. They wanted the ability to get relocation costs and an opportunity for residents to purchase their own land at the time a mobile home park went on sale. The proposed ordinance levels the playing field. They tried to do this in a manner that was fair to all parties.

PAUL NOLTE, City Attorney, said the ordinance addresses two things. One, the "Change in Use" is the conversion of a mobile home park to another use or a closure of a park. In other words, if a mobile home park is closed and no other use is made of it, the ordinance still applies. The park owner must apply for a hearing before the Planning Commission if the park owner wants to change the use and put it into a different use or close the park. There would be a hearing that could be combined with a land use permit being requested for the same property. The owner must provide an economic impact report of the change. It has to address the availability of comparable replacement space, relocation costs associated with relocating the tenants and the impact on the cityís affordable housing inventory.

Nolte continued that the park owner is required to pay relocation costs and mitigation costs which arenít defined in the ordinance, but are addressed in looking for a comparable replacement space. In lieu of that, the owner can pay each tenant up to $5000. If the home cannot be relocated, the owner is required to pay the tenant $5000.

Secondly, the ordinance addresses the sale of the mobile home park. If the mobile home park owner proposes to sell the park, the owner must give any tenant or tenantís association, an opportunity to negotiate in good faith, for the purchase of the park on the same terms and conditions.

The proposed ordinance differs from state ordinance. Both require notice be given prior to closure. The city ordinance requires a permit in order to close, but state law does not. Relocation costs are not mandatory under state law if the park owner gives 365 days notice. They are mandatory under this proposal regardless of notification. State laws requires notice to tenants in case of sale or opportunity to purchase, but only if there is a tenant association on record with the park owner. The city ordinance differs in that the offer must be made to any tenant in the park, whether or not there is a tenant association and also to any tenant association which may exist after notice is given. No economic statement is required under state law. State law limits the amount of relocation costs to $3500. The cityís is $5000 and is indexed by the CPI. No mitigating impacts are considered under state law, but are under the city ordinance. State law does not require that any payment be given to a mobile home tenant where the mobile home is incapable of being relocated because of its condition.

Swales asked if the mobile home should fall into disrepair, is there any state law pertaining to leases? Nolte believes the mobile home park owner can require mobile homes be kept in a certain state of repair.

Chapman said that because a mobile home park owner would have to come before the Planning Commission, that would suggest there is some criteria in the ordinance, giving the Commission the basis for denial. Nolte responded that the owner would provide an economic impact report and that is sufficient under the ordinance. Probably the only way to deny the application is if the owner has not complied with the requirements. This is no a traditional land use application. Hartzell is troubled that nothing has to be contained in the economic impact report that the Planning Commission could say the impact is too much.

Hartzell would like to see wording that would require a park owner to not only notify the tenantís association but others beyond that, in the event the tenantís association is not actively talking to their tenants.

Shavey is concerned about the review of the economic impact report. The ordinance says the Planning Commission will consider the report, but it does not say what they do with it. The affordable housing inventory is not defined. The city has notified itself we need more affordable housing, so how could an owner come and show there would be no impact? McLaughlin said we do not have an inventory. These are not really criteria in that form that allow discretion. These are more "checking off the box" items. The owners show the impact that may be negative, but there is no discretion within this. This is not a land use decision. Nolte said they would have to develop some standards.

Hearn asked if we are breaking new ground. Nolte affirmed. He wondered what would prevent a landlord from ratcheting up the rent so he will eventually have no tenants? Nolte did not think the state or city addresses that. Hearn wondered what would happen if closure was denied. How could you force a park to stay open?

Fields asked if there was a mobile home that was condemned or unmovable, would the tenant get $5000 and leave the debris there, or would that be deducted from the cost of disposing. Nolte did not think that was thought about.

Fields thinks we might be creating an ordinance that is preventing people from converting property to its proper zoning. Maybe a strategy would be to look at land we want to see as mobile home park and bring it into the UGB to meet the need. Nolte agreed that in some ways it conflicts with the Land Use Ordinance.

Briggs is uncomfortable because the city does not have an affordable housing inventory, much less having decided what affordable housing is. She does not believe the $5000 buyout solves the problem of where these people are going to go. The entire document is not addressing where we need to go right now.

Shavey asked McLaughlin the zoning of each park. McLaughlin indicated the Lower Pines and Upper Pines are Commercial. Siskiyou Trailer Village is in the UGB and designated Employment. The others are Residential.

Shavey wondered if there is a time limit for how long the tenants have to purchase a park. Nolte said there is no time limit and assumed negotiations would be done in good faith.

Hartzell commented that the City has hired someone who is going to do a needs assessment. One outcome will be an affordable housing inventory. The work should be completed in about four months. An action plan will be done that will address specifically the needs assessment.

McLaughlin said the Nauvoo Mobile Home Park is not listed on the inventory. It is in the UGB.

PUBLIC TESTIMONY

JOHN BRENNERMAN, Wilsonville, said he represents the Manufactured Housing Communities in Oregon (MHCO). They have a membership of about 550 and range in park sizes from four to 450 units. There have been various bills introduced at the legislature to control rents and they are always a hot button. He would discourage adoption of the ordinance or one like it. It will discourage future supply of this type of housing. The market is changing. There are fewer new parks and now more opportunities for people to buy existing parks. These homes were not designed to last forever.

He noted that the right of first refusal has been discussed at length in Salem. The legislature has decided not to ever embark there. It is considered a "takings" issue. He brought copies of an article from the MHCO, Washington State Association, about the Washington Supreme Court, ruled the right of first refusal unconstitutional and that it was a "takings" issue. He would encourage them to work with the League of Oregon Cities. Park tenants that have been offered the opportunity to purchase has never been accomplished. He worked on bill 3686 signed into law with an emergency clause. There are a number of new parks that are having trouble filling. This allows the park owner to sell the park off by selling the common areas in the price of an individual lot. This would allow the tenant to buy the space and be a part owner in the association that runs the whole park. It is already working. One problem is that the land values in Oregon are so high. The House Commerce Committee is going to look at some possible solutions such as long-term leases.

KenCairn asked if there was a pattern to empty spaces. Brenneman said it happens more where rents are higher. This is caused by the price of land.

Brenneman said his group would be willing to sit down and look at solutions. It is better to address this statewide than locally. He suggested establishing an endless lease. In the past, when the short-term leases expired, the park owners and tenants could not agree to terms, the park owner would ask the tenant to leave. Some parks are offering 99 year leases. He said there is a price tag of about $8000 to throw away a trailer.

BRUCE DAVIS, owner of Siskiyou Village Trailer Park, said he has four parks in Oregon. He is very much opposed to the ordinance. The park is in on private property and Ashland has not paid for them. He plans to own Siskiyou Village indefinitely. He did not believe there are any empty spaces in Ashland. If this ordinance passed, his initial response would be to increase the rent $100 to $150 per month because of the risk to him. This ordinance would effectively eliminate affordability. He asked not to be over-regulated.

DAVID ALLEN, owner of Jessellís cottages, said he has redone the cottages to provide affordable housing. It feels like someone is putting a gun to his head. The highest rent is $375. It is $200 for a trailer space. He is happy with this arrangement, but if this proposal moves forward, heíll have to think about it. Will it be time to eliminate these? His operation would stay as it is for the next ten to 15 years, but with this kind of path, he will do everything he can to eliminate his trailer spaces. He does not feel it is fair.

KAI, mother of a tenant in Lower Pines, said that affordable housing doesnít necessarily mean you can live in a house. The people at the Lower Pines donít own anything. They live independently. Their affordable income is $530 per month for most of them. They manage quietly with dignity to survive on that. Some are disabled or elderly. Her son now has access to laundry, bus, shopping, and medical.

ELAINE stated there is no affordable housing in Ashland. She had to move out of the city limits to find a place to live to support her family. Her mom lives at the Lower Pines and her momís job is at the school. Her mom cannot move. They need to keep housing for the people.

CAROL OíCONNER said she is a tax consultant and has lived in the Upper Pines for over two years. This is an ideal place for people in various financial situations. She is not quite sure about how she feels with the way the ordinance is proposed. However, if we are not watchful, this will be a community of wealthy people.

SANDRA BURKE, resident of the Lower Pines, said she has been through eviction, rent increases, etc. Her life is in flux and she never knows what to expect next. She is excited to think she could get $5000 and believes she could get a loan with this much to put down on a house.

DENNIS COOPER, 1983 Crestview, said he is one of three owners of Tolman Creek Mobile Home Park. It is difficult to speak against this ordinance after hearing testimony. This is a real social issue. The ordinance will not solve this problem. This ordinance will compensate people and that will be helpful to those people who would have to relocate, but will it encourage more mobile home parks? Are we trying to provide housing for people in the future or trying to find compensation for those who have lost it? This ordinance will change the agreement made between people. Why is this the last mobile home park to be developed (1995)? This is an equity issue and there is a need for some social input, some common good. If it were for the common good, it would seem like it should be something that the whole city would support. He noted that the various mobile home parks listed are operated very differently from each other. He is not so sure that a program designed for one of them will work for another.

ROB, resident of Upper Pines, said $5000 would not get anyone into a house. It is quite a procedure to buy a house. It is not a trailer to Sandra, it is a home. The government has said $530 a month is livable. A lot of people do not have the ability or knowledge to go into a real estate office or look for a better job. He explained there are a number of constraints placed on property, making it almost impossible to build new mobile home parks.

DEBRA WILSON, stated that she moved from a town in Massachusetts and she watched land prices skyrocket in four years. She asked the Commissioners to look very seriously at this ordinance. Long time residents are on limited incomes and they can only live here as long as they can afford it. Right now, Ashland is a healthy community with all income levels. Everyone living here has a vested interest in the community. We want people living here that wait tables. We pretend it is out of our control. The Commissioners are in a position to make the rules. Some people who own trailer parks may not be able to develop them or sell them as they want. If individuals donít make decisions, sometimes the community has to make those decisions.

DISCUSSION

Nolte has found the comments interesting and he would like to look at the Washington case brought by Brenneman. He will need to go back and make the ordinance clearer.

Fields said we have substandard housing that is affordable. Other communities have built 400 square foot sheds. We donít have a lot size for mobile homes. Are we willing to look at a small compact village of small structures (400-600 sq. ft.) that are stick built or manufactured with joint funding mechanisms. Probably the most affordable need is for rental housing. In the future, how do we get numerous units or small parcels of land?

Briggs read an article discussing inclusionary zoning. Hartzell said inclusionary zoning is prohibited in this state.

McLaughlin said the Housing Commission has talked about ways there is some discretion in land use.

Hartzell said this proposed ordinance provides the right of notice. It is not going to constrain as much as the owners think. She would like to continue hearing more about why they feel it is going to constrain.

Mayor DeBoer said we only have five mobile home park owners in this town. They have kept rents low and done the right things. He believes it is dangerous with the first right of refusal and to continue with this type of ordinance. He feels the conversation accelerated the Lower Pines Mobile Home Court. He thinks what we want to hear is a way for people to become owners in this community. We do have 400-500 square foot living units-apartments. Maybe we need some incentives for people to build new apartments. He would be opposed to moving forward with this ordinance as it is today. He thinks we need to work with the study we are doing through the housing fund and looking at some specific zoning to encourage future mobile home parks.

McLaughlin said if we do continue with the ordinance, it may be the reviewing role done by the Council rather than the Planning Commission. Nolte said it does not necessarily have to be the Planning Commission.

Chapman said there is an enormous crisis with the Lower Pines. H doesnít believe it sits well with the community. The ordinance was brought forward to ameliorate this situation. Is there something we, as a community, can do to help?

David Allen said he does not want to be controlled. He wants everyone to have a nice place to live. He does not want to go through all kinds of hoops to sell the property. Even the $5000 will not answer the problem. None of this makes sense.

Shavey said she has been troubled by this ordinance from the beginning. It is a terrible thing that is happening to residents of the Lower Pines, however, what is the city going to do about affordable housing across the board? The Housing Commission is struggling with it. This is a land issue as well as a human condition. She is not an advocate for rent control. There are numerous studies showing rent control having the exact opposite affect hoped for. The only hopeful solution is to get control of the land.

McLaughlin said Staff will work on the revisions and figure out where we need to go from here.

ADJOURNMENT - The meeting was adjourned at 9:15 p.m.

 

 

 

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