The District of Houston council has once again turned down the prospect of rezoning the Houston Trailer Court to allow more mobile homes to be placed there.
This time the idea was introduced by Houston councillor Tom Euverman who said the current zoning of its two properties has not produced what the District had expected for its vision of how the property should be used.
One of the two properties is zoned ‘core commercial’ and the other ‘multi family residential’ meaning that the mobile home park is termed existing non-conforming, effectively prohibiting further development as a mobile home park.
“I have considered council’s land use designation of the property in past decades and how this designation has not produced expected outcomes,” Euverman wrote in a memo which was debated by council sitting as a committee of the whole May 4.
“A changed designation of the property may provide a viable path for improvement of the area. I do not see the status quo of the preceding decades being an effective tool to achieve Council’s expressed goals with the property.”
“I request that the committee recommend staff investigation of a land use designation supportive of the activities currently undertaken on the property.”
Euverman’s formal motion presented to council also on May 4, which was seconded by councillor Tim Anderson, would have so directed staff to “identify land use designations supportive of the activities currently undertaken on the property ….”
Following debate, Euverman was the only councillor to vote in favour. All others present were opposed. Councillor Lisa Makuk was not at the meeting.
Euverman’s attempt follows an official request made by the Houston Trailer Court’s owners in March for a rezoning to permit mobile home activities, a request that was filed by council and not considered, and an appearance by one of the properties’ three partners in April urging council again to consider rezoning.
Supun Sigera, one of three owner-partners of the Houston Trailer Court, said he is as disappointed now as the first time council filed the request for a rezoning.
“We feel we have been treated unfairly,” said Sigera who added the intent of the partners was to expand mobile home spaces to increase the amount of affordable housing in Houston.
He said even the District has acknowledged there’s a need for a broader housing mix.
Houston Mayor Shane Brienen said council’s decision is not a reflection of the trailer court’s residents or its new owners.
“This is about long term planning for the area which is in the core of the District. The use there does not fit the planning,” he said of the presence of the trailer court.
Brienen said the desire of the District for a new use for the area dates back years, including incorporation into Houston’s official community plan intended as a guide to overall development.
“This is not something new,” said Brienen. “Council did not just come up with this.”
“We’ve been spending a lot of money into the downtown core to make improvements to attract new investment, new businesses,” he added of the intent of the current zoning of the trailer court’s two properties.
“It’s difficult to attract new businesses,” said Brienen in affirming that the plan for a downtown commercial core is part of the economic development development strategy to recover from the loss of businesses and people when major employer Houston Forest Products closed down in 2014.
The history of the use of the properties for mobile homes dates back decades but since 1968, the trailer court has not conformed to District zoning regulations.
The official community plan does make reference to moving mobile homes away from the downtown to allow commercial development as well as adjacent multi-family construction so that people are closer to the services a downtown commercial area can provide.
A letter from the District sent to the owners formally indicated the Houston Trailer Court will remain as pre-existing non-conforming.
“We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that the pre-existing non-conforming use is carried out in a manner consistent with the Local Government Act and other applicable municipal bylaws,” it reads.
In earlier information presented to bolster their rezoning request, the partners said it was common knowledge that mobile homes have been moved in and out of the location for years.
Sigera said he was particularly disappointed council would not even advance the prospect of changing the land use designation and then rezoning to the public hearing stage.
That way residents of the trailer court, surrounding area and businesses would have had a chance to provide their opinions, he added.
“They don’t know what the public might have said,” said Sigera of council. “If the public had a say, and they didn’t agree with us, then we would have respected that.”
Sigera and his partners did appeal to the provincial Ombudsperson prior to Euverman’s motion.
And now with what appears to be a final council decision, Sigera said he would pursue their complaint.
Still unresolved are two tickets issued by the District for moving two mobile homes onto the property in contravention of District regulations.
Those tickets are now before the courts but a hearing date remains undecided, said Sigera.