Some Valley mobile home residents may soon have a new and unlikely landlord: Spokane County.
After a briefing Thursday about the impacts of building the Valley Couplet, county commissioners agreed to expand an existing mobile home park to make room for people who have to move from the path of the road.
The couplet is expected to displace a total of about 65 mobile homes from Rose Haven and two other parks.
Under federal law, the county can’t just pay those owners the value of their homes; it must find them new homes.
The law is intended to assure that owners aren’t shortchanged or left homeless, said county engineer Bill Johns. Homes owned by low-income residents may not be worth nearly as much as the replacement cost, he said.
“If we pay somebody on Social Security $6,500 for a trailer … what are they going to do now?” Johns said.
The displaced homeowners wouldn’t be forced to move onto county-owned space. But wherever they choose to move, the county must help them.
The proposed expansion would add about 48 county-owned spaces to the privately owned Rose Haven park, just east of Park Road and north of the Dishman Hills Natural Area. After the lots are established, the county would look for a buyer to take over management of the spaces.
There’s a catch.
Johns said the plan will only work if the new spaces are about the same size as those in the existing park. Otherwise, he said, there won’t be enough room for all the spaces needed.
Yet the county’s current zoning code considers 25-foot lots - the standard when single-wide mobile homes were the rule - too small. Forty-five feet is now the minimum width.
That means the county must go before its own hearing examiner to request an exception from the regulations, just as private developers often do. If the hearing examiner says no, the county could appeal to court.
“We’re not asking for something new,” said Commissioner Phil Harris, outlining the argument he thinks the county should use. “We’re asking for the same thing that’s already there (in Rose Haven).”
If the expansion doesn’t happen, Johns recommended building a new park on county-owned land at the northeast corner of Park Road and Eighth Avenue. That could be done without hearings, but commissioners worry about neighborhood opposition.
Commissioners suggested trying to buying vacant land to build a park near Eighth and Carnahan, if necessary. That’s about two miles west of the current park.
Once it has a place to put the mobile homes, the county will face another problem:
Many of older mobile homes won’t meet federal guidelines for “safe and sanitary” housing, said Johns. If that’s the case, they can’t be moved, and the county would have to replace them with new, comparably sized mobile homes.