Committee to research mobile home issue

Published 7:30 am Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Washington Parish Planning Commission, during its meeting Tuesday, took on the task of looking into the rules about bringing pre-1988 mobile homes into Washington Parish.

Under current parish regulations, no manufactured home made prior to 1988 can be brought into the parish.

The issue was raised by Commissioner Bradley Cooper, who expressed the opinion that the parish mobile home ordinance should be amended to allow older manufactured homes to be brought into the parish. This is something he has heard from a number of people and something that, he said, is backed up by law.

“The state regulation states that if it’s in the same wind zone, it can be moved anywhere in the state,” he said. “They can’t move from a lower wind zone into a higher wind zone.”

The wind zone rating system was put into place by the federal government in 1976, Cooper said.

Backing up Cooper’s statement, Parish Councilman Michael Fussell said he has spoken to the director of the Louisiana Manufactured Housing Association about the subject, “and he said our ordinance should be listed as 1976.” The date in the parish ordinance, the LMHA director told Fussell, was arbitrarily selected and “would not stand up.”

“He said, legally, you can move a 1976 or newer in any parish, meeting the wind zone requirements,” he said.

Using copper wiring in mobile homes has also been the accepted practice since 1976, Fussell said. Commissioner Scott Brumfield said that was one of his concerns regarding older mobile homes.

“I’d you’ve got a ’78 or ’80 that’s still got aluminum wiring, it doesn’t even need to be in service anymore, to be honest with you, because sooner or later it’s going to go,” he said.

It would be difficult to determine that, Fussell said, as the permit office is not allowed to inspect the inside of a mobile home.

Providing some more background on the parish regulations, Commissioner Claude Bloom said that manufactured homes already located within the parish at the time the ordinance were grandfathered in, and as long as those homes comply with the 1976 HUD manufactured homes specifications, they can be moved anywhere within the parish. The original reason for the ordinance, he said, was that the adjacent parishes had regulations concerning moving mobile homes into their boundaries, but Washington Parish did not. Therefore, the parish was “getting a flood of decrepit homes,” he said.

Parish attorney Wayne Kuhn said that large numbers of unsightly mobile homes were being brought into the parish and left at various sites. He said that the homes are, in some situations, brought in with the owners having the intention of remodeling them and making them look nice, but some are also brought in to be used as sub-standard rental properties.

“That was the reason for this, mainly, is to keep them from being brought in and left (to) create undesirable homes for people to rent, possibly take advantage of renters,” he said.

Fussell asked if it would be possible to leave the date of 1988 as-is in the ordinance but to add the condition that a variance could be requested for older manufactured homes on a case-by-case basis. Cooper concurred, saying that he thought that would be a fair stipulation.

Rather than forming a committee to look into the matter, as Chairman Levi Lewis had proposed earlier in the meeting, Fussell suggested that the parish’s comprehensive ordinance be amended to include the variance for older mobile homes.

“That may be the results the committee brings back, if we just go ahead and let the committee function for one month and come back with a recommendation,” Lewis responded. “I think that the mission of the committee will be to review the mobile home ordinance to determine if there is a need for revision and make a recommendation back to the commission.”

A committee was appointed, with Scott Brumfield, Bradley Cooper and Claude Bloom serving as members and Rev. Jerome Warren as chairman.

In a related matter, Franklinton resident Gail Willie, speaking during the public participation portion of the meeting, detailed numerous apparent mobile home violations at the lot neighboring her mother’s Franklinton home. Lucchesi and the committee members were commissioned to help her to resolve the issue.