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Talent adopts ordinance to preserve mobile home parks

An emergency ordinance to immediately prevent conversion of manufactured home parks into single-family residential uses was approved by Talent City Council Oct. 7. In the wake of the Almeda fire the move is a step to preserve some of the most affordable housing options in the city.

“If someone came in with an application tomorrow, we would have to process it,” City Manager Sandy Spelliscy told the council. “This just kind of puts the brake on that happening.”

A previous ordinance, which the council action amended, allowed residential units on 6,000-square-foot lots in the manufactured home zone. Without the changes, a mobile home park could have been converted into a typical single-family subdivision, according to a staff report.

None of the three parks located in the manufactured home zone had a single-family residence at the time of the fire, Community Development Director Zac Moody reported.

Nearly 700 residential units in the city were destroyed in the Sept. 8 Almeda fire. That included almost 300 manufactured homes in parks and nearly 100 apartments. In addition, 150 mobile homes or RVs in Easy Valley, Totem Pole and Talent Mobile Estates parks located near city limits were lost.

A need to preserve the manufactured home parks was recognized in a two-year planning process to amend development rules that was close to completion before the fire. The effort was developed, in part, to address the lack of affordable housing in Talent.

The Talent Planning Commission had already approved elimination of the single-family conversions, but had not yet forwarded a recommendation to the City Council, awaiting other changes to the rules.

Oregon’s Department of Land Conservation and Development had been previously advised of the changes. By adopting the measure on an emergency basis, the council was able to hold a second public hearing on the changes. Moody said the council’s action could be appealed to the state’s Land Conservation and Development Commission within 21 days.

“Adopting these amendments now does not preclude the council from future changes,” said Moody. Council might want to consider, for example, allowing construction of condos on mobile home land with provisions for land ownership by unit purchasers while maintaining higher densities, he said.

New densities under the adopted code require 13.7 units per acre if a mobile home park is redeveloped.

Councilor Stephanie Dolan asked whether the measure was “putting the cart before the horse,” saying a lot of good conversations about rebuilding were going on. “We kind of have a blank slate here for about a third of the town,” said Dolan.

In response to Dolan, staff members said the need to preclude possible applications for conversion was immediate. The council unanimously passed the amendments.

Enactment of a building moratorium in Talent, which some have called for in the wake of the fire, would take time. Moody said such action requires a 45-day notice period.

Redevelopment of about 15 mobile home sites in Mt. View Estates, which borders Bear Creek, would need to meet current federal and city guidelines because they are in the flood plain, said Moody. They would need to be 2 feet above the base flood elevation, requiring additional foundation work. At the time they were installed the homes required a 1-foot clearance. Some sites partially in the flood way may not be buildable, he said.

“I don’t know that any of these parks will be up for sale,” said Spelliscy. “Manufactured homes parks are a big business, and people have made money. They are a very viable investment.”

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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