Salt Lake County wants to clean up the Herriman area. But mobile-home dwellers there say they can't afford to meet proposed building and health standards, and they can't afford to move.
A man fighting a proposed county ordinance says a confrontation with authorities is likely if officials attempt to enforce the measure."There definitely could be a confrontation with police," Ken Barwick said. "We don't want a confrontation. We'd sooner be gone. I don't have money to relocate, but I am not going to risk my life."
Barwick and other mobile-home owners in the Herriman area have asked the Salt Lake County Planning Commission to reject the proposed ordinance, which would require mobile homes to meet the same building, fire safety, zoning and health standards applied to site-built homes.
It also would remove, under certain circumstances, current location restrictions that limit mobile homes to special parks and subdivisions.
The Planning Commission has taken the proposal under advisement for two weeks. The measure also must be approved by county commissioners before it becomes law.
Barwick, 55, and his family, including five children, lived for 12 years in a mobile home on their five acres near Herriman in far southwest Salt Lake County. Because the dwelling was illegal, they could not get authorization for an electricity hookup and lived by candlelight and wood stove.
Several years ago the family moved into what Barwick calls a "survival house" - a $2,000 structure he built of wood scraps. Two years ago Utah Power & Light gave them electricity.
A daughter, son-in-law and their children still live in a mobile home on his property. A second Barwick mobile home is occupied by a financially strapped family trying to get back on its feet.
The proposed ordinance would allow the estimated 45 mobile-home dwellers in the Herriman area to keep their mobile homes in current locations if within three years the owners bring the dwellings up to applicable development codes that were in place at the time each mobile home first occupied its lot.
But many of the mobile-home dwellers can't afford to bring their homes up to subdivision, zoning, health, fire and flood control standards, Barwick said. In some cases, the required upgrading would cost more than the home is worth.
"Most people are in the homes because of financial problems; they cannot afford these things," he said. "Their only other alternative is to leave them."
Another provision of the proposed ordinance that owners find objectionable would require a masonry perimeter around the base of a mobile home. Another would require owners to pay real-property rather than personal-property taxes on mobile homes.
The proposed ordinance is part of the settlement to a 1987 lawsuit filed by mobile-home dealers, manufacturers and owners after the county sought court injunctions against mobile homes illegally located on residential lots in the Herriman area.
But Barwick is convinced the ordinance change was instigated by wealthy owners of premium homes in the area who, he says, "want to get the riffraff out of here." He also claims he and other mobile-home owners are victims of periodic persecution by authorities.
"We admit we are illegally here, so authorities don't need to come on to our property," he said. "While these trailers are countywide, they (authorities) never pick on anyone outside this 1-mile area. A (sheriff's) officer used to harass us with impunity, even pulled his gun out at our oldest son."
Barwick, an insurance man-turned-writer and fence builder, said he moved to Utah "because it was a gathering place for the Mormons."
"I had a series of dreams, some would call them visions. I saw future calamities in California."
He once tried to sell his five acres and homes for $35,000 to relocate. "But the only nibble we got was from this Arab who said he'd give us $30,000."
Barwick said it wasn't enough for the family to start over, and "send my children to college to have a better chance than what we had."