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ZAP says unlimited RVs should be allowed in mobile home parks

Thursday, June 6, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns

City Council will attempt to alleviate some of Austin’s affordability pressures on Thursday by discussing rezoning mobile home parks that are operating as such yet are not appropriately zoned and by amending the mobile home ordinance to allow recreational vehicles in the parks.

City staff recognized that there is a disconnect between the way city code views RVs and the way RVs are actually being used. As a result, the Planning and Zoning Department is working with the city’s legal department to revise the language in the mobile home ordinance, proposing that the ordinance allow for no more than 50 percent of a mobile home park to be composed of RVs.

The Zoning and Platting Commission, however, felt this percentage was too restrictive. At its June 4 meeting, the commission voted unanimously to recommend that Council not limit the RVs on-site by percentage, and instead place limits based on lease term length.

Commissioner David King, who proposed the amendment, wrote to city staff to explain that changing the amendment to hinge on a lease term would “ensure that recreational vehicles that are primarily stationary are allowed by right in mobile home parks. Stationary status could be established by a lease agreement that is longer than 30 days in duration.”

Chair Jolene Kiolbassa said, “I think that’s a really great solution given what we saw,” and Commissioner Ann Denkler called the amendment “spot on.”

Joi Harden, a manager with the Planning and Zoning Department, explained to the Austin Monitor that staff chose to limit RV residents to 50 percent because “some mobile home parks were already allowing recreational vehicles (RVs) to use spaces, and staff did not want to have the owners make a change. However, RVs are structurally different from mobile homes. Staff does not consider these dwelling units because they lack certain safety features, and that is why they have their own zoning classification outlined in the Land Development Code.”

In a previous discussion with the Monitor, Council Member Greg Casar noted that he and the ZAP commissioners support retaining the status quo in Austin’s mobile home parks, which may mean taking a different approach than limiting their quantity by a percentage. There are several mobile home parks in the city where residents primarily inhabit RVs rather than traditional mobile homes.

Council Member Ann Kitchen told the Monitor that she was in favor of ZAP’s approach to incorporating RVs into mobile home parks. “I think that that proposed ordinance (as written by staff) needs some more work. I think focusing on the type of entity –  the mobile home versus the RV – is not the point and it’s limiting in a way that doesn’t help us with our goals for affordability and housing options.” She said she was unsure whether a 30-day lease period was the ideal time delineation and that it would require more discussion on the matter with other Council members.

Harden told the Monitor, “It is hard to enforce a zoning category based on a lease agreement.”

Nevertheless, with very little discussion other than a friendly amendment from Commissioner Abigail Tatkow to change the duration of the required lease agreement from “longer than 30 days” to “at least 30 days,”  the commission voted to recommend the change to Council. Commissioners Nadia Barrera-Ramirez and Eric Goff were absent.

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