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Resolutions aimed at spurring mobile home developments tabled by city council

Editor | April 9, 2021 7:00 AM

City councilors in Libby tabled April 5 twin resolutions aimed at lessening the cost to future mobile home park developments in the municipality.

The proposals came forward as officials mull over the possible annexation of property on Education Way. A mobile home park project pitched for the area, which falls under county jurisdiction, would require hooking into the city’s sewer and water lines.

Under Resolution No. 1979, a planned mobile home park with 20 or more connections would be charged $500 per hookup so long as the developer took care of mains, secondary lines, metering pits and water meters. Resolution No. 1980 offered the same deal for sewer connections.

When public crews perform the work, homebuilders are generally charged between $4,800 and $4,900 per hookup, said City Administrator Jim Hammons. For a developer looking at erecting a mobile home park, that bill could reach the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Officials said the dual resolutions had emerged from a city council subcommittee. But City Councilor Kristin Smith said the proposals took her by surprise.

Given that city council had just rejected a debt forgiveness deal with the Cabinet View Golf Club for the potential development of property near the course, it left a bad taste in her mouth, she said.

“I’m very confused by this resolution, particularly in light of the discussion we just had, trying to extract money from a golf course, and here we are making concessions to a developer,” Smith said. “This whole thing is just confounding.”

City Councilor Brian Zimmerman said the proposals had undergone vetting at the subcommittee level. They would have come up before city council sooner, but subcommittee members had worked with City Attorney Dean Chisholm to fine tune the wording.

Unlike a subdivision, which could see just a handful of hookups, a mobile home park would necessitate many more, Zimmerman said. Many of those parks rent out lots, meaning they would not recoup the thousands in home sales, he said.

The remaining $500 fee covers the cost of making sure the hookups were done correctly, City Councilor Gary Beach said.

But Smith saw nothing in the language that would preclude a mobile home owner from taking the deal and then selling the trailer lots. She also found fault with the 20-unit cutoff.

Ultimately, she said she would back measures to bolster affordable housing in the community. Mobile homes generally fell into that category. But not in one-off resolutions aimed at specific types of development, Smith said.

“I understand mobile home parks are an important affordable housing option,” she said. “I would encourage us to consider something more along those lines to encourage affordable housing rather than a particular type of project.”

City councilors Rob Dufficy and Hugh Taylor also expressed reservations. Dufficy asked that city council table the resolutions to allow for more study.

Mayor Brent Teske responded with mild frustration at the response.

“I hate to set the precedence to tabling these things all the time when you’ve had ample time to do this [research],” he said.

Smith disagreed with his definition of ample time and chastised subcommittee members for failing to give notice of the impending resolutions.

“We didn’t have ample time — we got our packets and we also have this huge golf course thing going on. I don’t feel like it’s been ample time,” she said. “This is the first we’ve heard of this specific proposal. Typically, when a committee is working on something, we hear about it ahead of time.”

After city council opted to table the pair of resolutions, Dufficy made mention of the Education Way project, which is in the early planning stages. The project had heretofore not been brought up in the city council discussion.

“Here’s the thing,” Smith replied. “We cannot make something specific to a project.”