Mark Freirich: No need for Riverwalk |

Mark Freirich: No need for Riverwalk

Riverwalk is a proposed development at the present site of the Westland Mobile Home Park. Documents that have been submitted to the city of Steamboat Springs by the developer, ERIII LLC — Jim Cook is the representative — refer to the project as a “new Steamboat waterfront experience.”

That sounds appealing until you realize that to construct this project, 39 homes at Westland Mobile Home Park must be demolished or moved.

Some might say the owner of the mobile-home park site should be able to do whatever he wants to with this property after the existing mobile-home leases expire. However, leases in a mobile-home park are substantially different from other leases.

The Colorado Legislature has recognized the difficulty in relocating a mobile home from its location. According to Section 38-12-203 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, a tenancy in a mobile-home park may be terminated only if one or more of the circumstances set forth in the statute has occurred. Basically, as long as the tenant pays the rent and complies with the rules and regulations of the mobile-home park, the lease continues. The statute does provide that a lease can be terminated in the event of condemnation or change of use of the mobile-home park.

The Steamboat Springs City Council, in determining whether to approve the Riverwalk development, should focus on the impact the proposed development will have on the tenants who reside in the park. There are about 150 individuals who are residents of the Westland Mobile Home Park, and the park has been in existence for more than 30 years.

Most of the homes cannot be relocated within a reasonable proximity of their present location. There are simply no other parks in the city that can accommodate these homes and many would fall apart if a move was attempted.

The City Council is left with a decision as to whether to allow this proposed development at the expense of the mobile-home owners who will lose their entire investments in their homes. Loans that were obtained to acquire these homes probably will remain unpaid, and mobile-home lenders will be justified in refusing to make future mobile-home loans in this community.

The city previously has passed ordinance No. 1804, known as the Preservation of Mobile Home Housing Ordinance. In that ordinance, the city finds the following:

n There is a shortage of housing available for purchase in Steamboat that is affordable for low- and moderate-income individuals.

n The opportunity for homeownership to all segments of the community is essential to maintain a stable work force and to avoid becoming a community where only the wealthy can afford to live.

n Mobile-home ownership provides a reasonably priced alternative to conventional housing.

The ordinance further states “it is critical to encourage the preservation of mobile-home parks within the city limits.” Unfortunately, to satisfy the requirements of this ordinance, a developer must compile certain information and provide a conversion impact report.

Ordinance No. 1804 should be amended to reflect that any developers who seek to change the use of a mobile-home park must pay the mobile-home owner the fair market value of his or her home. In addition, tenants within the park should be paid the amount of their moving costs and other expenses associated with locating alternate housing. Finally, the developer should be required to pay any other costs associated with changing the use of the mobile-home park.

Although the City Council has often discussed the need for affordable housing, what will the council do when asked to approve a development that will destroy a community that presently provides an excellent source of housing for low- and moderate-income individuals? The tenants of Westland Mobile Home Park fill diverse jobs in this community. They deserve to have their homes preserved.

If the City Council believes the existence of affordable housing is a benefit to the community, then now is the time for the council to send a clear message to the developer of Riverwalk — “A new Steamboat waterfront experience” is not needed at Westland Mobile Home Park.

Mark Freirich

Steamboat Springs attorney

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