Community members and Columbia city officials discussed possible concerns about the annexation and rezoning of two mobile home parks at Monday night’s council meeting.
Whirlwind Properties LLC operates both Sunset and Ed’s mobile home parks, totaling more than 130 lots, southeast of Columbia off Lenoir Street. Ron Netemeyer, managing partner of Whirlwind Properties, applied for annexation with the city and planned commercial zoning for the 20.75-acre property. On May 24, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that the council approve the application.
Issues, such as the level of law enforcement activity in the area, were raised at Monday’s public hearing.
In the period from Jan. 1, 2006, to June 5, 2007, the mobile home parks together had 423 “watch-in-passings” and 446 calls for service, according to a report by Tony St. Romaine, assistant city manager. A “watch-in-passing” is a tenant- or sheriff-initiated patrol. If annexed, the parks would be the responsibility of the Columbia Police Department, which has officially opposed the annexation request.
“We’re not saying we can’t handle it, but it will have an impact on our staffing,” Chief of Police Randy Boehm said.
There was also some question as to how long the mobile home park operation would continue.
“The only reason he’s seeking rezoning is to sell for development, in my opinion,” Barbara Hoppe, sixth ward councilwoman, said before the meeting. “If there’s a concern about the amount of police calls, it may only be a short-term concern,” she said.
Almeta Crayton, First Ward councilwoman, compared the issue to two previous instances when developers had said they wouldn’t change the land use and evicted tenants soon afterward.
“We don’t want to do that anymore,” she said. “Be very honest. If you’re going to do that, be up front so they can do what they need to and get out of there.”
In response, Netemeyer said, “at some point, those folks are probably going to have to move.” He said that, when the time comes, Whirlwind would abide by all statutes for eviction.
Further concerns were raised about how much residents actually knew about the proposed zoning. Hoppe questioned the specific wording of a letter sent to tenants saying, in bold type, that zoning “will not” change the operation. “That looks like a very strong statement,” she said.
No tenants appeared at the hearing.
Netemeyer said that the park manager has been in contact with residents and that they only heard one complaint about possible eviction.
“There are a lot of good people who live there,” Netemeyer said. “We want to do everything we can to help them.”