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City Council preserves mobile home parks from future redevelopments

A mobile home at Lakeway Mobile Estates will be protected under a new preservation plan proposed by the city. // Photo by Oliver Hamlin By Cooper Campbell “We've chosen manufactured home living because we can afford it,” Ishbel Dickens said at Monday’s Bellingham City Council meeting. Residents of the 10 mobile home parks in Bellingham showed up in droves to express their concern and support for a city plan document that recommends the preservation of the parks. The new plan brought to the council by Planning and Community Development established a new policy goal advocating for the preservation of manufactured home parks. Rick Sepler, director of the Planning and Community Development Department for the city, presented the recommendation to the council. He said affordable housing protections already include manufactured homes, but not explicitly. The new goal states, “Existing manufactured home parks should be preserved when appropriate.” Residents of these parks feared that without protection from the city, landowners could decide to sell or redevelop the land. Much of the contention surrounded the “when appropriate” language, which leaves the fate of parks up to the city and property owners, not residents. Council member April Barker made a motion to remove language that said the city would preserve mobile home parks “when appropriate.” In response, Sepler said removing that language was left the city with little flexibility around the issue. Kelly Morgan, a teacher at Birchwood Elementary and president of the Birchwood Neighborhood Association, echoed Dickens’ concerns. She said over 60 students at Birchwood Elementary live in manufactured homes. “Many of these families would not be able to afford to move their trailer, or their trailers are not in a condition to be moved,” Morgan said. Residents from parks all across Bellingham shared their experiences. Many were in different financial situations in regards to whether they owned or rented. Joanna Crocker, a resident of a manufactured home park in Kenmore said she doesn’t own the land her home is on. “I, like many of the other people here, own my home but not the dirt underneath it. My entire investment is totally at risk,” Crocker said. Residents of manufactured home parks receive 12 months notice for park closure, Mary Evitt, who lives in Lakeway Mobile Estates, said. Washington State House Bill 1582 would have added two years to the notice requirement, but this did not make it into the final bill signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, Evitt said. “It is absolutely essential that we do whatever we can do to save these parks,” council member Gene Knutson said. The council ultimately voted to remove the “where appropriate” language and refer back to a planning committee for a later meeting. The next city council meeting will take place June 3 at 7 p.m..

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