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Bill aims to ease Howard housing shortage


Howard County's high home prices and tight growth-control laws make daunting barriers to providing new middle-income housing, but a County Council bill due for introduction tonight seeks to keep a segment of the existing supply from shrinking.

The council will receive a raft of measures at tonight's meeting in the George Howard Building. The housing bill, proposed by Chairman C. Vernon Gray, an east Columbia Democrat, would help stabilize the number of mobile home sites in the eastern county, especially along U.S. 1, where businesses say they cannot find enough workers.

The issue arose two years ago, when three contiguous, jointly owned North Laurel trailer parks in the U.S. 1 median near Laurel Race Course, with about 60 units combined, announced plans to close. More recently, Brentwood Manor Mobile Home Park, several miles north, filed plans to expand by 45 units.

Under current law, Brentwood owner Gilbert Mobley has to wait for a housing allocation under county growth-control laws, which could delay his plans several years. Meanwhile, Mobley said, "Our park is presently full and we have customers who would like to live here."

He noted that Ridgewood Mobile Home Park, with 150 units, also closed recently near Arundel Mills in Anne Arundel County, a victim of the expansion of Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Gray's bill, which would cover any Howard trailer park closed after Jan. 1, 2000, would allow the transfer of mobile homes from a park that closes to another that expands without running the gantlet of Howard's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance if the two parks are in the same school district.

Another Gray bill would encourage owners of mobile home parks to provide more recreational space for residents and their children.

If the first bill passes, units eliminated when the North Laurel parks close could be quickly re-established at Brentwood Manor in Jessup.

"The thought was that mobile home parks are an affordable home component, and here's an opportunity to add mobile homes with no net increase. If an apartment house burned down, you'd build another apartment house," said Joseph W. Rutter Jr., the county planning director.

The bill would at least prevent the loss of homes as older parks along the U.S. 1 corridor are closed and sold for redevelopment.

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