11/04/09 — Commissioners OK mobile home ordinance change

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Commissioners OK mobile home ordinance change

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 4, 2009 1:46 PM

It was a déjà vu Tuesday morning for Wayne County commissioners as they took the next step toward revamping the county's mobile home park ordinance to give them final say on plat approval.

Just as they did with the recent approval of the amended subdivision ordinance, the majority of the board rebuffed an effort by Commissioner Steve Keen to require that the board provide a written explanation when it rejects a plat.

In addition, as was the case with the subdivision vote, commissioners did not have a full board, meaning that a second vote must be taken before the issue is approved. Commissioner Andy Anderson is out of the country.

Commissioners talked about adding a sentence to the ordinance stipulating that their motions include their reasoning for rejecting a plat.

The idea at first seemed to have some support from the board. However, the proposal did not resurface later in the discussions and was not mentioned when Commissioner Jack Best offered the motion to approve the ordinance as written.

In response to questions from the board, county attorney Borden Parker said that the amended ordinance would apply to new projects only.

Existing mobile home parks would be affected only if changes were made to them, he said.

As proposed, the Planning Board would make recommendations to commissioners concerning the plats. Commissioners would approve or deny the plats. No construction or installation of improvements could begin until that approval is received.

The Planning Board could approve recommending a plat, deny it or give conditional approval. In cases of denial or conditional approval, developers would be able to appeal directly to commissioners should they disagree the Planning Board's decision.

Commissioners say that provision gives developers more appeals options.

It still does not provide an appeals past commissioners, said Keen, who also is member of the Planning Board.

Commissioner J.D. Evans questioned Parker about the need for board members to indicate their reasoning for a vote.

If a plat meets the rules, then the board lacks the discretion to turn it down, Parker explained. Commissioners would have to approve the plat, he said. Then, if they have a problem with a portion of the ordinance, they could go back and address that specific area of the ordinance, Parker said.

If the plat fails to meet the ordinance requirements, "then why did it get here to start with?" Best said.

The Planning Board had recommended that the ordinance require commissioners provide a written statement as to why a plat is rejected.

Keen said the statements are needed so that developers know what they need to do in order for the project to win approval. Failure to supply that leaves the developer in limbo, he said.

The Planning Board currently provides such information when it denies a mobile home park plat, he said.

A mobile home park is different from a mobile home subdivision that is regulated by the subdivision ordinance. In a park, three or more mobile homes are located on rented lots, while in a subdivision the homeowner owns the lot.

County Planner Connie Price told commissioners what they would be approving would be the layout of a park. Once approved, fire hydrants would have to be installed before the first home would be allowed in. The developer would receive a letter of construction from the county to allow the project to continue.

It was then that Keen said he had a problem with the proposal and renewed his call for the board to provide the developer or landowner with a reason for denying a plat.

"They won't know what to do (to receive approval) unless commissioners tell them what to do," Keen said.

Price said that the Planning Board provides such information.

"Wouldn't you know why we disapproved one?" said Commissioner John Bell.

"If you disapproved for the same reason the Planning Board disapproved it," Price said. "If the Planning Board disapproved the plat and the developer appealed the Planning Board's decision to the board of commissioners and you disapproved it for the same reason then it would be obvious.

"But if you disapproved it for some reasons that is not clearly specified in your motion then we wouldn't be able to tell. If you specified in your motion they (developer) could get an excerpt (reason) from your minutes. I just think the developer needs to have a way of knowing."

Keen said it could be possible that commissioners deny a recommendation for approval by the Planning Board.

"The developer, I think, has the right to know what they can do to get it approved," he said.

Evans asked Price how often a plat is rejected.

"If the staff and Planning Board do their job I don't think it will be a problem," Price said.

After Best made his motion to approve the ordinance as written, Keen offered his motion to add the requirement that reasons for denial be placed in a written statement.

The motion failed 5-1.

"I'd like to question why we cannot add the Planning Board's recommendation?" Keen asked.

There was no response.

The vote on Best's motion was unclear. When Chairman Bud Gray called for a show of hands, he, Bell and Best raised their hands. Evans and Commissioner Sandra McCullen were more tentative, prompting Gray to ask for the show of hands again.

This time is was a clear 5-1 vote to approve the ordinance.