City Council poised to protect mobile home parks from redevelopment

The City Council is considering an ordinance that would protect certain mobile home parks from being redeveloped by the landowners.

The measure would create a new zone specifically for mobile home parks. Snohomish County passed a similar ordinance last year for unincorporated parts of the county.

Supporters say the move is necessary to protect affordable housing, especially for the elderly.

“We all know that when the economy picks up some of these manufactured home parks sit on land that is very valuable for redevelopment,” Council President Mark Smith said. “To allow the land to be sold out from under the homes that people are living in is just flat out wrong.”

Council member Kimberly Cole said the issue is very personal to her because she grew up in a mobile home.

“We lived where we lived because we had to. Sometimes this is the only option. To this day my mom still lives in a mobile home park community. She’s in Bothell where they already enjoy protections that we do not have here in Lynnwood,” Cole said.

Others on the Council oppose the ordinance because they say it removes landowners’ rights and puts the city at risk of a lawsuit.

“I believe that the current proposed ordinance is an unconstitutional taking of private property. I do think it’s a tough situation and I’d like to find a positive resolution that works for both sides,” Council member Kerri Lonergan-Dreke said.

Council member Jim Smith agrees. “The mobile home park owners are people too. They’re business people,” he said. “To say that one family has to support everybody else flies in the face of disservice. It doesn’t seem fair.”

Mark Smith said he’s willing to run the risk of a lawsuit. “We’ve been told that if we pass this we’ll get sued. Well, maybe we will. Life’s full of risks. This is an issue that I’m willing to take that risk.”

The Council voted four to three to bring the issue up to a vote on Dec. 13.

  1. What would really help here is a good old fashioned side-by-side presentation of how the current and proposed Lynnwood laws regulating trailer parks compare to the county and similar, nearby cities. That would be some truly useful “just the facts, ma’am” reporting.I say this because that little portion of the council meeting was pure and unadulterated politics, pure and simple. Much in the way of “choking up visibly” to protect the poor, hapless trailer owners from evil, nasty, heartless, predatory park owners… and equally much in the way of breezy dismissal of trailer-owners’ legitimate rights and, more disturbingly, out-and-out lies about this being a “seizure of land” issue.We need to dispense with the lies, manipulation and maudlin appeals to emotion and get down to some objective facts.(By the way, Mike, I’m not criticizing your reportage, I realize you’re just one guy. If anything you’re managing to consistently run relevant stories that the Herald for some reason can’t even be bothered with.)

  2. Mark Smith is wrong. He is putting renters in the same class as squatters. People who upsurp a landowner. I was also sad to see Mark be so open to spending money on lawsuits during a budget crisis.

    1. I don’t know enough of the facts yet on this issue to know definitively whether he’s wrong, but I know a maudlin appeal to emotion and sentimentality when I hear one and that’s what we got from him and Kim Cole, both. Regrettably, Jim Smith and Kerry Lonergan went in the other direction and either summarily dismissed the notion that there could be *any* valid concerns on the part of park dwellers, and (worse) put forth a bullshit argument that it’s a “seizure of land” issue. I can take being emotionally manipulated, roll my eyes and wave it off, but it angers me to no end when they just get up there and flat-out lie to us like that.

      And don’t be surprised at any council member’s willingness to squander taxpayer money, Codetalker. Look at the amount of money they flushed down the shitter trying to frame the mayor. Something like $38K on that Seabold “investigator.” Here we are zillions in the red and they still spent money on that witch hunt. Nothing surprises me any more.

      1. Unless the trailer owners have some type of agreement that allows them to rent their space in perpetuity the property owner rights would prevail in court. The land owner is no more obligated to provide free land then would an auto dealer be obligated to provide a free car.

        Regarding Gough. Don was out of line during the investigation and because of valid concerns of a dysfunctional government.

        Both the police department

        and the city employees

        the council is right to ask him to step aside. All signs point to a level of dysfunction that leads back to the mayor.

        But back to the trailer park. The trailer owners rent their land plain and simple. The trailer owners have the right to use the land under an agreement with the land owner. As they have a history of renting and have demonstrated they are aware of the nature of relationship with the land owner they would lose in court.

        If they choose to squat they must prove adverse possession. They do not have a case for adverse possession because of the history with the land owner. If the trailer owners have a paper giving them the right to forever and always rent the land then let them produce it. Otherwise any city council ordinances that might pass would quickly be quashed by county and state law.

        1. Everything you say regarding the land-rental arrangement between the park owner and trailer owners who rent the plats makes sense generally. My only concern would be an appropriate level of renters’ rights that are appropriate to this particular form of landlord-renter relationship.

          It should go without saying that land owners should have to give adequate notice if they want their renters to move for whatever reason (desire to sell the land to a developer, for example). As it stands, if you rent an apartment, for example, your landlord does not have the legal right to tell you that he’s evicting you effective immediately and you have to get out right this minute, etc. It doesn’t matter that he owns the property, the point is that YOU RENT IT and along with that come very well-enumerated and specific rights that protect you.

          Renters’ rights should apply to trailer owners as well, and specifically, they should be tailored to the unique realities that trailer owners face, which are far different from the realities faced by apartment dwellers.

          Finding a new plat of land to park your trailer on, renting it, moving the trailer, etc., all take much more time and potentially involve drastically greater impacts to every aspect of one’s life (commute to schools, work, family, etc.) as compared to finding a new apartment, which is practically a cake-walk because apartments are a dime a dozen. Not so with trailer parks. Consequently, no trailer-park owner should have the right to expect people to move in and out at the snap of his fingers, as it were.

          Much was made of the fact that trailer owners “go into this with their eyes open,” and the fact is, that’s a hard to counter. My point is that the rules need to be laid out, and laid out fair and square so as to be equitable to both parties in the transaction, so that the same can be said of landowners: when they choose to turn their land into a trailer park, they go into with with their eyes wide open, and if it turns out that they can’t turn on a dime when their big-spending Danny Developer comes a’knockin’, well, them’s the breaks.

          As with anything, it’s a question of finding the fair balance, and more importantly, doing so in the light of objective facts — not weepy sentimentality or heartless hard-assed persecution of those less fortunate to further enrich the privileged.

          1. I believe I agree with you up to a point. Let’s say an individual is renting an apartment and the owner raises the rent. Assuming the raise is fair and legal (whatever that means) and the renter can’t find anything that is in the same neighborhood within their budget is the owner now obligated to assist the renter?

          2. Codetalker, I’d have to defer to someone more knowledgeable. I asked a good friend of mine who used to be a landlord but he never ran into the problem of raising rent so extremely that it priced his tenants out of their digs. Speaking as a former renter, though, if a landlord raised my rent so exorbitantly that it was basically designed to evict me, for all intents and purposes, I think that should be illegal if it isn’t. (Again, I never ran into the problem when I was a renter, so I can’t say for sure.)It’ll be interesting to see what Mike’s follow-up reveals.

  3. I’m torn. Is this just another reason not to buy property in Lynnwood or is this just another reason not to invest in a trailer park?

    1. I agree, it’s all far from clear, 16. For my part, I’d be buying property in Lynnwood. When the economy turns around (and we’re looking at a years-long curve here), this place will be looking good.

      That is, it will be looking good provided we have some visionary leadership, and that’s a whole other issue.

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