TAYLORSVILLE Norma Olson's mobile home could be sitting on top of a gold mine of commercial revenue, but to Taylorsville city officials, that's irrelevant.
What's more important to the city is that Olson, who lives in one of Taylorsville's three mobile home parks, has a place to live. That's why, at the risk of losing millions of potential commercial development dollars, the City Council is considering rezoning the Majestic Meadows, Majestic Oaks and Monte Vista neighborhoods as mobile home communities and adding an ordinance that would make it harder to displace the 1,000-unit neighborhood.
"These mobile home communities sit on valuable land, and there's always the option for the land owner to put his property up for sale," Mayor Russ Wall said. "We want to try and find a way to protect the property rights interests of both the homeowners and the property owners. We feel this is the first step."
The mobile homes are currently grouped together in a part of the city that is zoned for multifamily residential use. If the city rezones the area to be specifically for mobile homes and a developer wanted to build something else on the land, then the developer would have to go through a zone changing process with the city.
None of the park owners have told the city they intend to sell their land, but Wall said the discussion is an offensive effort to get the ball rolling before it becomes an issue. Plans for the ordinance are still in the early stages, and it may be months before the City Council makes a decision on whether or not it should be adopted.
If the city passes the new ordinance, developers might be required to help move the mobile home park residents to a new location in order to obtain the zone change. In some cases, that task might be difficult because mobile homes that were built before 1976 cannot be moved.
Wall said he worries about what will happen to the community because a number of mobile home parks in Utah have closed over the years. In 2006, one park in Cottonwood Heights was sold to developers, sending its residents packing. A similar situation happened in Orem in 2003.
"Our concern is we have a very vulnerable population over there," said Community Development Director Mark McGrath. "We're afraid that something like what happened in Cottonwood Heights will happen over there, and the property owner will sell the land and the developer will come and kick everyone out."
Because the mobile homes are located near the freeway, across from a research park, Taylorsville could stand to benefit financially if a developer were to build an office park or commercial area in that location. But as home prices continue to rise and costs of living skyrocket past many fixed incomes, McGrath says it's more of a concern that the trailer park residents won't have anywhere to go if the parks are destroyed.
"This is prime commercial area," McGrath said. "We're not saying that we don't want to see this area developed, we just want to protect the residents who live there. I think it's safe to say we care more about our people than the money."
For Olson, a widow who has lived in her mobile home for the past five years, the city's efforts are encouraging."I just feel like the seniors are being shafted a lot," Olson said. "We would really appreciate if (the city) would give us some kind of protection so we could feel more at ease about what's going to happen to us in the future."