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Belmor mobile home park residents solve zoning issue
The Federal Way City Council rescinded a request made earlier this year by residents of Belmor Park to have the city’s planning commission develop a specific zoning type for mobile home parks.
The shift in gears comes from the fact that residents of Belmor were able to reach an agreement with the Hines ownership group, according to Belmor Homeowners Association President Mike Nugent.
“The park owners, the Hines group out of Canada, have offered a made-in-Belmor Park solution other than rezoning,” he said during the council’s Sept. 3 meeting. “We had a community meeting to address that solution, the solution has been voted on and unanimously approved by the homeowners and the homeowners association.”
Along with this, Nugent and the other Belmor residents asked that any future rezoning issues regarding mobile park homes would exclude Belmor.
“There’s other parks in the city limits of Federal Way that have their issues,” Nugent noted, “and we as a homeowners association will support them in establishing homeowners associations and helping them do that.”
The reason for this change in heart, Nugent said in a post-meeting phone interview, was because the ownership group offered a very nice “severance” package if the Hines group were to ever seek to sell the Belmor property.
“The Hines group has offered Belmor park a three-year notice…if and when they do want to sell the park,” Nugent said.
This is somewhat exceptional because under state law, park owners are only required to give residents a one-year notice if the property is being sold.
The Hines group continued to sweeten the pot for Belmor residents if and when there’s ever a sale of the park property to outside interests, Nugent added.
“They’ll pay us three years back rent as well,” he said. “Three years of back rent could range from $25,000-$30,000. The third thing is…with some of the older homes that couldn’t be moved even if you wanted to…if they sell the park, the park would incur the cost of taking care of our older homes.”
The last item is important, because if a homeowner wanted to sell or move their home out of the park in case of a sale, that cost can typically run anywhere between $7,000 to $11,000. In all, the deal was one that Belmor residents were happy with, Nugent said.
“So that $30,000 (in possible back rent) is net equity for us to be able to move onto a healthcare facility or whatever,” he noted. “We’re able to move out of there with some equity and not nothing.”
Other mobile home parks
While Belmor Park residents got a good deal, the residents of other mobile home parks in the city were concerned about the removal of the zoning request from the Planning Commission’s agenda.
Ishbel Dickens, executive director of the National Manufactued Homeowners Association, was on hand during the Sept. 3 meeting to speak up for the other parks in Federal Way.
“Zoning works. It provides an affordable homeownership option for low-income families and seniors. It allows the city to comply with the Growth Management Act by providing a variety of housing options for all economic segments of society and by preserving existing neighborhoods,” she said. “It allows landlords to continue operating their very profitable businesses. And it provides homeowners with increased security of tenure and therefore improves the worth of their homes, since the land under them has more value…(zoning) encourages homeowners to invest in their homes and invest in their lots.”
Dickens also noted that mobile home parks tend to be very tight knit, with residents providing “informal social services” for each other, such as grocery shopping and making sure they get to doctors appointments and so on.
“(Mobile home parks) provide a whole host of services which would otherwise be needed from the social agencies in the city,” she added.
“There are 700 households in these six other communities in Federal Way, excluding Belmor. They need your protection,” she concluded.
The council held a sizable discussion on the issue also at that Sept. 3 meeting, because of the complications of Belmor asking to be excluded from any future zoning changes, and the fact that they were the only park asking for the zoning change.
Councilmember Diana Noble-Gulliford suggested that perhaps the other parks could reach an agreement like Belmor had with its ownership.
“I appreciate what the residents of Belmor and the owners have accomplished over the past few months. And I feel that if the other parks can also work out some type of arrangement similar to Belmor, instead of involving local government to do it for them, I think we would have a win-win situation in our city,” she said.
Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell wondered if there was much of a need for the addition of specific zoning designation for mobile home parks.
“Have we ever had an instance in which a mobile home park has essentially closed and people have been given notice and pushed off the property?” he asked.
“Not since I’ve been here, but I’ve been here only 12 years,” said Patrick Doherty, director of community and economic development
The council and Mayor Skip Priest, along with city staff present like Doherty and city attorney Pat Richardson, advanced the idea that city staff needs to take a deeper look at this issue, especially in light of Belmor’s request for exemption from any future mobile home park specific zoning. The idea seemed to be agreeable to all, with the council voting to remove Belmor’s request while leaving the option open for further research and discussion on the issue.