A chorus of opposition to a proposed amendment to Mount Olive’s mobile home park ordinance prompted the town board to table the measure indefinitely.
The board made the decision during its July 12 meeting.
Concerns that the change would adversely affect property values and that the existing ordinance was not being enforced also prompted Mayor Kenny Talton to appoint a committee to look further into the issue.
The hour-long discussion was spread across the opening public comments section of the meeting, the background discussion leading into a public hearing on the proposal, the public hearing, and later in the meeting as Talton asked commissioners what they wanted to do about the proposal.
As the ordinance is currently written, once a mobile home is removed from a mobile home park, a replacement cannot be installed if the lot is vacant for more than six months.
The proposed amendment would have eliminated that provision, thereby allowing a replacement mobile home at any time.
Justin Hill, the town’s code enforcement officer, told the town board the reason behind the proposal was due to the need for affordable housing and to help improve the appearance of mobile home parks by filling vacant lots.
Hill said he receives calls from people interested in buying the properties but that they can not do so unless they put a mobile home there.
If the lot sits empty, there is no tax value, he said.
“It is better to put something there than nothing,” Hill said. “There would be stipulations.”
The replacement mobile home could not be more than 10 years old and would have to have brick underpinning, he said.
However, about six speakers, including a member of the planning board, were worried the opposite would happen and that property values would take a hit, especially in Mount Olive’s southern end — the town’s predominantly Black community.
The speakers also used the public hearing to voice concerns that some of the mobile home parks in the town were eyesores.
Several, including town Commissioner Delreese Simmons, called out some of the landlords as “slumlords.”
Some people are living in poor conditions but either are afraid to complain to their landlord or don’t know their rights as renters, speakers said.
Landlords should be held accountable for the condition of the mobile home parks as well as houses, one speaker said.
During the public hearing, Planning Board member Linda Boykin said she had voted against the proposal when it came before that board.
Boykin said she wanted people to understand that she was not saying to get rid of the mobile home parks.
“I understand that everybody cannot afford a house,” she said. “What I am saying is that before you allow mobile homes to start coming back into these mobile home parks, hold these landlords, these mobile home park owners accountable for the way these mobile home parks look.
“Before you allow the mobile homes back in, fix the ordinance so the mobile home park owner won’t just get the rent but is held accountable to what that house looks like. If he can’t, then he needs to replace it.”
Most of the owners do not live in the area, she said.
“They don’t see what it looks like,” Boykin said. “We have to see what it looks like every day. All they see is the money going into their bank accounts.”
That standard should be applied to landlords who own houses in the town, too, she said.
Mount Olive Fire Chief Greg Wiggins said he is concerned that streets in some of the mobile home parks are not large enough, or are in too terrible a shape, to accommodate emergency services vehicles.
And Commissioner Tommy Brown wanted to know how adding mobile homes to the parks would be affected by the state-mandated moratorium preventing the town from adding new sewer hook-ups.
Later in the meeting, Commissioner Barbara Kornegay said she thought the proposed change should be tabled to provide more time for the Planning Board to receive more input and to examine ideas that surfaced during the meeting.
Such a move would help the board make a better decision, she said.
“We the board, I don’t think we know enough,” she said.
Kornegay’s motion to table the issue indefinitely was seconded by Commissioner Steve Wiggins and unanimously approved by the board.
Kornegay also asked if the board should provide some instruction to the Planning Board.
Talton said that was a good idea and asked Kornegay, Brown and Boykin to serve on the committee.