LODI — The village is looking at options to resolve a zoning issue that has left several residents in mobile home parks without utilities.
The Planning and Zoning Commission has been discussing a new zoning ordinance with owners of mobile home parks who have said their residents are being denied utilities because of the enforcement of an ordinance that renders the parks “nonconforming.”
At least two mobile home parks, Meadowview Village on Lisa Court and Sunset Estate Properties on Sunset Drive, are being affected by a zoning ordinance passed in 1987 that says utilities shut off in a nonconforming zone cannot be re-established after six months of abandonment.
Meadowview Village and Sunset Estate were built in the 1940s before the village had any zoning. Years later, they were zoned R2, a single-family residential district, and not MH, a manufactured homes park zone and, therefore, the parks are considered nonconforming.
However, a new ordinance would place the parks in a multiple house/retail/residential zoning district. Details of the possible ordinance were scheduled to be discussed at a Village Council meeting Monday, but the absence of Mayor Dan Goodrow, who is working on the zoning, caused members to table the issue, Councilman Wayne Hershberger said.
“There is possibly going to be a zoning change, but we don’t know yet,” Hershberger said.
Goodrow did not return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.
While Council and park owners work through the issues, residents like Gary Daubner on lot 16 in Sunset Estate are looking toward winter and wondering whether they will have heat.
Daubner bought the trailer for $2,000 in May with the intention of gutting the inside first, placing new drywall, and then new vinyl siding on the outside. He was going to move in after it was finished, but the house he rented with his sister became too expensive after she lost her job, so he decided to move in while he was renovating.
He called the village to put down the $275 deposit required for utilities and was given the green light at first.
“I called the village and they said that no one owed any money on it,” he said. “She said they could turn it on before noon that day.”
Soon after, he was told by the Board of Public Affairs his utilities would not be turned on because of the zoning issue. He said he was told twice they would be turned on, but the village kept pushing that day back.
Still, he pressed on with his renovations, expecting the issue to be resolved before winter.
“I was doing pretty good in the summer, but soon it’s going to snow, and its going to be cold in here,” he said.
For now, he pays a neighbor $50 a month to run an extension cord from his home to Daubner’s, and also uses the neighbor’s water to flush his toilet.
“Here’s my refrigerator,” he said, tapping a cooler with his foot.
Brady McCann, owner of Sunset Estate Properties, said while the issue is tabled, he is losing money and residents are without water and electricity.
“I feel like I’m getting the runaround,” he said. “It should be a simple zoning change and a simple thing to turn the power on.”
Donald Gilbert, one of three members of the Board of Public Affairs, said it is tough for the board to enforce rules like the 1987 ordinance, but unpaid bills affect the system as a whole.
Recently, the village had to cover more than $16,000 in unpaid utility bills going back to 1991, many of which went to collection agencies, Clerk/Treasurer Annette Geissman said.
Gilbert said most of those unpaid bills came from mobile homes. Water in particular is a problem, because pipes are often not insulated and neglected in the winter and burst, leading to higher water and sewer bills. Even small toilet leaks can lead to big bills, he said.
“It costs the system more, our expenses go up and, in the end, it costs everyone more,” he said.
Gilbert said before the zoning issue surfaced, the Board of Public Affairs discussed the possibility of mobile park owners installing master utility meters that would put the cost of utilities in the hands of park owners, leaving them responsible for billing residents. Other mobile home parks in Lodi not being affected by the ordinance have master meters.
McCann countered the cost of such meters would be placed on him, as well as the cost of unpaid bills. He said it is unfair for the village to ask him to do so while depriving him of the ability to make money by renting homes.
Eighteen lots in the park that collect more than $200 in rent per month cannot have utilities turned on. Some of them have new homes on the lot, he said.
“They want us to pay for all the utilities that every trailer park uses, but we have no control to shut them off if they don’t pay them,” he said. “There’s too much liability there.”
McCann has owned Sunset Estate Properties for about a year, and said he agrees that previous owners did not keep up with the property. He said since he has owned the park, he has torn down two old trailers with plans to demolish three more, brought in new homes and kicked out some residents in an effort to clean up the park.
“I’m trying to clean it up, but we need more money to do that, and they’re not letting me do my job,” he said. “We need money if we’re going to clean it up.”
Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.