COLUMBIA — An anxiety-filled summer finally came to end last night when the Columbia City Council unanimously approved the annexation and rezoning of two mobile home parks on the southeastern fringe of the city.
The vote clears the way for a plan to annex and rezone property for commercial use at Roosevelt Avenue and Lenoir Street, which is now occupied by Ed’s and Sunset mobile home parks. The council approved the proposal after negotiations between the owners and residents of the parks over the past several weeks.
The agreement calls for Ron Netemeyer and Jason Shoot, partners in Whirlwind Properties, to give residents a minimum of six months’ notice before evicting them and to give them free rent, water and sewer service during the three months before the parks close.
The six months’ notice is two months more than required by city ordinance. The agreement between the city and Whirlwind is binding.
The offer by Whirlwind came in response to “The People’s Proposal,” which was drafted by park residents with the help of Grass Roots Organizing. That proposal, issued July 11, called for a year’s notice before eviction, six months’ free rent and a payment of $700 to $1,000 for each homeowner to compensate moving expenses.
Shoot, at the time, described the proposal as “laughable,” according to a previous Missourian report. “We would go bankrupt before we could do it,” he said.
Close to 40 residents of the mobile home parks turned out Monday night to share personal stories in the hopes of swaying the council’s decision. Most were wearing name tags, identifying themselves as mobile home residents.
Ultimately, after two hours of debate, the council decided to simplify the decision and consider the annexation and rezoning as a single issue. The discussion had begun to veer off course with questions about the issue of scarce low-income housing and inadequate programs for disadvantaged residents.
“This has been agonizing for all of us,” Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade said. “But we cannot address all of these issues tonight. I am voting to approve because (Whirlwind’s proposal) goes beyond the state requirements.”
The council’s final decision came after a late appeal from Netemeyer to reject a motion to table the ordinance.
“In everybody’s best interest, where we’re at on this is where we’re going to be,” Netemeyer said. “A continuance would not be effective.”
The controversy surrounding the mobile home parks began in May, when Netemeyer and Shoot proposed the annexation. Netemeyer originally maintained he had no plans to commercialize the property, saying in a letter to residents that the rezoning “will not change our ongoing operation of Ed’s and Sunset Mobile Home Parks.”
In his proposal to the city, he listed 28 “intended uses” for the land, including office buildings, schools and retail stores.
City staff has said the property occupied by the parks will become prime commercial ground soon, especially with the pending construction of a major interchange at U.S. 63 and Gans Road and the nearby development of the Discovery Ridge research park.