Despite the nearly 30 commercial uses listed in his statement of intent, and the expectations of city and council officials, Ron Netemeyer says he will continue to operate his mobile home parks even if the City Council agrees to annex and rezone them.
Netemeyer, managing partner of Whirlwind Properties LLC, applied for annexation and planned commercial zoning for his company’s land holdings southeast of Columbia on Lenoir Street. The Planning and Zoning Commission has since voted to recommend the council approve his requests, and the council will hear public comment June 18.
Netemeyer said he applied for rezoning simply to keep up with the nearby areas that are zoned for commercial uses.
“I don’t think residential really fits out there,” Netemeyer said. In April, Whirlwind sent a letter to tenants listing Columbia city law enforcement, trash service and public transportation as benefits of annexation. The letter mentioned his request for planned commercial zoning but said it “will not change our ongoing operation of Ed’s and Sunset Mobile Home Parks.”
In his application to the planning department 15 days earlier, though, Netemeyer included a statement of intent listing 28 “intended uses” for the property, ranging from office buildings and restaurants to educational facilities and religious institutions. No residential uses of any kind were on the list. Netemeyer said he didn’t include them because they’re “grandfathered in.”
“I don’t know what will happen in the future,” Netemeyer said. “I plan on running them as mobile home parks.”
A city staff report on the request states that it is likely Whirlwind will sell the property once it is annexed and rezoned.
“It is apparent that the applicant or a future developer would eventually eliminate the two mobile home parks on the site, which would displace a large number of mobile home owners and renters,” the staff report said.
Netemeyer disagrees: “I don’t know where that came from. I purchased (the parks) as mobile homes and plan to continue to run them as such.”
Whirlwind has owned Ed’s for about 20 months and Sunset for just over a year, he said.
Planned commercial zoning allows for future business development but requires city approval of any new uses, city Planning and Development Director Tim Teddy said. But he added that short-term displacement of residents is unlikely because the lack of highway access to the area means it doesn’t have high commercial demand yet.
The new interchange at Gans Road and U.S. 63 will change that. The interchange, which should be done by the end of 2008, will be near the Whirlwind property. Boone County Assessor Tom Schauwecker said that it will add value to the surrounding land, including the Whirlwind holding, but that other property that already has commercial zoning and better access to the highway probably would be developed first.
Meanwhile, it could be some time before some city services are extended to the mobile homes, particularly bus service. Columbia Transportation Manager Ken Koopmans said the city would include public transportation in its master plan for the area, after the Gans Road interchange is done.
“Yes, we would consider it; no, it’s not a guarantee,” he said.
Schauwecker and members of the Planning and Zoning Commission agree that commercial development is the “highest and best use” of the land.
“This property could be described as being in the ‘path of progress,’” Schauwecker said. “It’s just a matter of time before we see the use in that area change. You don’t find many mobile home parks in the city limits.”
If the mobile home parks are torn down, residents will need to find another place to live. State and city regulations require that mobile home tenants be given at least 120 days’ notice before eviction. Schauwecker said that simple economics means there is less and less affordable housing available.
“It’s problematic not only in Columbia, Missouri, but everywhere,” he said.