COLUMBIA — During a tour of Columbia Regency mobile home park Thursday night, Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe told residents about a new amendment to the rezoning request submitted by the potential buyer of the park property.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony, who also toured the park, had not seen the amendment yet. She said she wanted to table the rezoning vote, scheduled for Oct. 17, so that City Council members could have more time to thoroughly look over the proposed amendment.
The amendment will be added to the rezoning staff report included with the council meeting agenda, and it will be published on the city website Friday.
At the end of the tour, Hoppe spoke to a crowd assembled in one resident's driveway. She carried the amendment sheet in a manilla folder, and she listed some of the changes suggested by Aspen Heights, the purchasing company.
If the amendment passed and the the property was rezoned, she said:
- Residents would get six months' notice before having to move out of the park. The city mandate is four months' notice.
- $1,200 would be given to every trailer owner. If a trailer was owned by someone else, the money would be split between them.
Hoppe also said the amendment contains information about sidewalks. It addresses some of the problems discussed by the members of the Planning and Zoning Commission when they unanimously voted not to recommend the property be rezoned.
Joan Wilcox of Grass Roots Organizing said that addresses, "Nothing."
Wilcox said that $1,200 would pay only about half the cost of moving a regular-sized trailer. She said doublewide trailers and trailers that couldn't be moved because of age or structural soundness were still issues.
Hoppe and Anthony said they had asked for an ordinance to give six months' notice before eviction in all rezoning cases. Hoppe said this ordinance might be addressed in the council meeting Monday.
Hoppe also said that she is asking for a city ordinance to notify tenants in all cases of rezoning requests, for both trailer parks and apartment complexes. Notification was a problem at Columbia Regency, as tenants only learned about the rezoning through news reports and word of mouth..
Hoppe said she did not like to make up her mind before the vote, but she expressed concern about the situation while at Columbia Regency.
Anthony said if she did not get support to table the vote, then the unanimous vote against the rezoning made by the Planning and Zoning Commission would weigh heavily in her decision.
Anthony said she was "moved and impressed" by her tour through the trailer park.
"It's a real neighborhood," she said.
Adam Rievley, a resident, organized the tour with help from Grass Roots Organizing, and he led most of the discussion on the tour.
The tour began at the park clubhouse. About 30 residents lined up to introduce themselves to the councilwomen. Several children played on a playground and swung on the branches of orange-leaved trees behind them.
Hoppe, who had previously met with residents, went quickly through the line. Anthony moved more slowly as residents explained their backgrounds and how the rezoning would effect them.
From the clubhouse, Rievley led the group along a main street toward his trailer. He apologized for a tree blocking his sidewalk and said he had been waiting six months for permission to trim the branches. He provided sodas from coolers on his porch and brought the councilwomen and a few others inside his home.
Rievley's trailer was built in 1974, he said, and though he remodeled it, he did not have the receipts to prove it. That means Rievley's trailer cannot be accepted in most trailer parks, he said. He recently invested $4,000 into remodeling the trailer, and he said if he had known Columbia Regency was looking to rezone and sell, he would have used that money differently.
"It's not a trashy place. It's my home," Rievley said.
The furniture inside of the trailer looked worn and water marks spotted the ceiling over the kitchen, but the place appeared clean. An aquarium with at least one tiny gold-colored fish took up a part of one wall.
By the time Rievley and the councilwomen had left the trailer, the children were running around with sodas from the coolers on Rievley's porch. Throughout the evening, the children played in the streets with basketballs and wagons. Older children were directed by adults to look after the younger children, and some carried each other around as the group walked through the park.
Three girls, who looked about to be about 12 or 13, performed a song at the end of the evening, repeating the words, "Say no to profits / Say yes to peace / Don't put our families on the streets."
As people walked, Rievley spoke and answered questions about the park. He said he estimated there are 125 inhabited trailers. The proposed population of Aspen Heights is much higher.
Rievley pointed out dilapidated trailers. The sight seemed to surprise Hoppe, considering previous efforts by the Office of Neighborhood Services to clean up the park.
During the walk, various residents told the councilwomen stories about themselves and neighbors. Mary Kelley started to cry as she told them how she and her family had previously moved around a lot but wanted to settle down at Columbia Regency. She said they had lived there two years.
"We worked hard for our home, you know what I'm saying?" Kelley said.
Senobdia Tucker tried to cheer Kelley by joking around. "We gotta laugh because if we cry, it really hurts," she said.
After the walk, Anthony said she and Hoppe were worried about the future of the residents even if the rezoning doesn't pass.
"We'll keep fighting," Kelley said.