By GREG ALLMAIN
Federal Way Mirror reporter
April 19, 2013 · Updated 9:42 AM
The Federal Way City Council voted unanimously to move mobile home park zoning to high priority for the city’s 2013 Planning Commission Work Plan.
The move came at the April 16 council meeting after a number of citizens from the Belmor Park community made pleas to the council to consider the change, among them Mike Nugent and Renee Marshall.
According to the Belmor Park residents, they’re worried that the owner of the park property is close to retirement, and are unsure of what may happen if the owner’s family decides to sell the property where their homes sit.
“We’re promoting the process of mobile home park zoning at our park, as well as 11 other parks in the city of Federal Way,” Nugent said. “That’s about 1,100 residents in this area. We’re promoting this (because) we are owners as well as renters. We rent the property, but we own our homes. The problem is, that if the owner of the land decides to sell the property, we have one year to relocate or move our homes out of the area, and that’s really not an option for any of us…The problem is, if the owners sell the park, we’re in real trouble. We cannot move the homes or relocate very well.”
For Belmor Park, many of the manufactured homes that make up the community would essentially be considered “permanent” homes, with connections to utilities, sewer, etc., which would make relocating those homes difficult and costly.
For the Belmor Park residents, it’s an easy decision for the city. Nugent said that a similar issue arose in Tumwater recently, and that the 9th District Court of Appeals upheld a municipality’s ability to zone for mobile park homes.
“That gives us a little space, that if they wanted to sell it, it would continue as a mobile home park,” Nugent said.
Marshall talked more about the owner of Belmor and the possible ramifications of what might happen if his family decides to sell the park.
“He’s also been in ill health. He owns 20 other parks around the country, and he’s very dedicated to his communities,” she said. “But, we’re so vulnerable because of the zoning…if his heirs decide they want to sell it to a developer that wants to change the landscape, then we are really stuck.”
Marshall continued, saying that uprooting the residents of Belmor Park just isn’t feasible.
“The demographics of the community, the average age is about 68-70. We have about 500 residents there, many on fixed incomes. So for them to start over, it’s just not an option,” she said.
(Pictured: Manufactured homes in the Belmor Park community, located off South 324th Street across from The Commons mall in Federal Way)
Dan Barrett, a Kent resident and President of the Association of Manufactured Home Owners, was also present during the meeting to lend his support to the Belmor Park residents.
According to Barrett, the cost of moving a manufactured/mobile home is quite high, and not something within the reach of most manufactured home owners.
“The average cost of moving a manufactured or mobile home in the state of Washington…is about $25,000,” he said. “That equates to more than $2,000 a month that a resident has to save, (and) most seniors and families in these communities do not have the resources to do that.”
Barrett indicated Kent provides such zoning, along with Marysville and Lynnwood.
“I just ask that you move this to a higher priority to get this issue settled in the city of Federal Way,” he added.
The support for re-prioritizing the issue was unanimous across the council, with Councilmembers Dini Duclos, Bob Celski, Jeanne Burbidge, Diana Noble-Gulliford and Kelly Maloney all expressing sympathy toward the Belmor Park residents.
“There’s a lot of people, a lot of seniors out there. These are their homes, and we need to be working with them and supporting them in making sure they can stay in their homes,” Duclos said.
Celski agreed, saying that he could support the re-prioritization easily.
“We’re talking about people’s homes. Their lives. The places they’ve lived and the place they plan to live,” he said.
Burbidge, Noble-Gulliford and Maloney echoed their fellow councilmembers’ thoughts, with all saying that the residents of Belmor Park deserve some security in the coming years.