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Council should value people over property

Thursday, July 26, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:17 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ed’s and Sunset Mobile Home Park residents organized and expressed their concerns during the July 2 Columbia City Council meeting that addressed the proposed annexation and rezoning of their mobile home parks. A Whirlwind Properties Inc. owner agreed to work with the city and present, in writing, how they would help residents during the period leading up to the closing.

About 100 families of low to modest income, including the elderly and disabled, enjoy living in these two adjoining Boone County mobile home parks. One woman has lived there for more than 30 years and many others for more than 10 years.

We are members of Grass Roots Organizing, a social justice group which has consistently worked to improve the lives of those residing in mobile homes in Missouri. The health and safety of the families need to be protected and made a high priority in this annexation/rezoning decision.

The owners have said that the parks will not close immediately but have made it clear that this will happen “someday.” Where will these families go? Residents of this community will be in a much better position to adjust if they are part of the dialogue to decide how the evacuation will take place. If the displacement of these families is forced and hasty and denies the need for additional resources, it will be even more traumatic and destructive, not only to the residents, but to our community as a whole.

Mobile home moving problems are extremely complicated: For example, a home can cost as much as $2,000 to move and that doesn’t include set-up costs. Also, many older “mobile” homes have become structurally impossible to move, forcing people to lose their home assets because no one will buy them. Since mobile home living qualifies as affordable housing, the situation is further complicated by the fact that Columbia has a serious shortage of affordable housing.

The annexation and commercial rezoning requested by the owners would greatly increase the value of the land and enable the owners to make a substantial profit, while the homeowners suffer setbacks. Since owners have great legal advantage, and since it is common practice for the city to attach written requirements to annexation and rezoning approvals, we agree with “The People’s Proposal” which says that residents should receive time and money for the mental, emotional and financial trauma of being forced to leave. The families in the parks require more time and money so they can prepare, save and explore all options for relocation.

Several council members pointed out that, beyond the laws on the books, there are moral and social laws that a civilized community like Columbia needs to respect.

In this spirit, tenants have come together and prepared a proposal that presents what they identify as the minimum requirements to include as conditions for the annexation and rezoning.

“The People’s Proposal” has already been signed onto by more than half the residents age 18 and over. “The People’s Proposal” says that, after the owners decide to sell or close Ed’s and Sunset, the following requirements would apply:

 

     

     

  • One year notification must be given to all residents.
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  • Owners will give six months free lot rent for the last six months of that year.
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  • Owners must properly maintain the mobile home parks property in accordance with the law throughout operation.
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  • No new buys and no new move-ins shall be allowed in the final year of operation.
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  • Each family who owns their home or is buying it will receive $700 to $1,000 toward their moving costs.
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  • This proposal must be part of any sales contract accepted by the owners.
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The City Council plans to reconsider this annexation and rezoning issue on Monday, Aug. 6, at 7 p.m. Attend the meeting and support the families’ efforts to secure the council vote that puts people before property.

Laura Parker and Mary Hussmann are members of Grass Roots Organizing.


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