Council hears proposal to expand trailer parks Result could be higher costs for mobile homes


Compared with other parts of the nation, things are nice in Howard County: the schools, the murder rate, the parks with nicely groomed softball fields.

You may want to add new trailer parks to the list.

Under a proposed modification of mobile home zoning rules discussed last night by the County Council, developers of mobile-home neighborhoods -- who scorn the term trailer park -- could build curved roads and place small parks and open spaces between the structures.

But the new concept may have a price -- as in higher costs for mobile or manufactured home units in a county where lower-priced dwellings already are in short supply.

"It will raise the cost, some, there's no doubt about it," said council Chairman Charles C. Feaga. "Hopefully, the increase will be minimal."

If the council approves, the proposal probably will apply only to new mobile home developments. It would be too expensive for the owners of existing sites to rip out their roads and sewers, said Joe Rutter, head of the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning.

The change is being sought by Corridor 1 Limited Partnership, which plans to develop acreage near Interstate 95, just northwest of U.S. 1 and Route 175, for an unspecified number of units. The partnership wants the same zoning rules that apply to traditional residential neighborhood developments, according to the legislation.

Such proposals worry Len Wehrman, who 22 years ago co-founded the National Foundation of Manufactured-Home Owners, which is based in Daly City, Calif.

Mr. Wehrman, who was interviewed about the Howard proposal, is particularly concerned about larger "pad" sizes, that is, the size of the plot the mobile home sits on. Mobile home owners typically pay rent on the pads.

When the pad size increases to larger than a 5-foot apron around the mobile home, "It absolutely takes it out of the affordable housing market," Mr. Wehrman said.

Wayne Newsome, one of the Corridor 1 developers, said he does not know whether his lots will be larger than lots in the county's existing mobile home areas.

His plan is to develop what is called manufactured housing, prefabricated homes that arrive on trailers but do not look like traditional mobile homes. These homes could be two levels and have garages, Mr. Rutter said.

Two council members who have raised concerns about affordable housing -- Democrats C. Vernon Gray and Mary C. Lorsung -- indicated they would support the changes. Mrs. Lorsung said the density would remain the same.

Mr. Feaga said the new mobile home concept would be a good market for Howard residents who are renting regular houses but cannot afford to buy.

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