A mobile home park on the West Hill could be headed to its final years after the property owner received unanimous approval from the Kent City Council to rezone the land near the future light rail line for commercial and residential development.
A couple of council members, prior to their vote, voiced concerns about the future of the approximately 65 residents at the 29-unit Midway Mobile Mansions, 24426 Pacific Highway S. City Attorney Pat Fitzpatrick, however, told the council that what happens to the people at the park wasn’t up for consideration about whether to approve the rezone ordinance.
“Whether or not the property owner intends to relocate or sell is not legally relevant to the decision to approve the rezone,” Fitzpatrick said at the June 4 council meeting. “If the rezone is compliant with city codes, that’s the issue to consider.”
The 1997 Midway Group L.P., which owns the 4.5 acres, told city staff that it has no immediate plans to sell or redevelop the property.
“If the applicant has no immediate plans to sell or redevelop, why is he doing this now?” Councilmember Les Thomas asked Jason Garnham, city senior planner, who gave a report to the council about the rezone request.
“It could probably be assumed that they hope to (sell/redevelop) or intend to in the future,” Garnham responded.
“Is that next year or in five years?” Thomas asked.
After that exchange, Fitzpatrick spoke up to set the record straight on the council’s vote about the rezone ordinance. The property owner asked for the rezone so it would match the surrounding properties that allow commercial and residential development as part of the transit-oriented community approved by the council in 2011 in anticipation of light rail coming to Midway.
Sound Transit’s construction of the 7.8- mile Angle Lake to Federal Way light rail extension begins next year and is scheduled to be completed in 2024. A light rail station will go up near 30th Avenue South and Pacific Highway South, just north of Midway Mobile Mansions. Developers have built commercial and residential projects near other stations along the light rail line between SeaTac and Seattle.
“The 1997 Midway Group LP is pleased with the Kent City Council’s decision last week to approve our proposed rezone of the Midway Mobile Mansions property,” said Laura Bachman, spokesperson for the group, in an emailed statement to the Kent Reporter. “Both the City Council and the Kent hearing examiner found that our rezone is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan, which designates our property a transit oriented community (TOC). All residents were notified of our rezone application.”
Fitzpatrick told the council that if mobile home owners are required to move, the state offers assistance.
Mobile home residents can apply for relocation assistance to the state Department of Commerce. The mobile home owner must meet certain low-income requirements to be eligible for up to $7,500 for a single-section home and up to $12,000 for a multi-section home.
“A lot of those homes are not movable, they are too old to move,” Thomas said. “So $7,500 will not cover much.”
Just 13 of the 29 mobile homes at Midway Mobile Mansions are movable, according to a list of the sites in a city staff report. Some of them are single wide and others are double wide.
The city of Kent requires a one-year notice by the property owner to mobile home residents if they are going to be evicted because of a land sale.
Garnham said requirements for a relocation plan and eviction notices are in city code.
“It’s quite clear a 12-month eviction (notice) is required and cannot be (issued) until the city authorizes approval of a relocation plan,” Garnham said.
That raised a question from Councilmember Satwinder Kaur.
“When the owner decides to redevelop, will the council be in the know about what’s going on?” she said.
Fitzpatrick said what is required will be discussed at a future meeting of the council’s Parks and Human Services Committee.
“Staff will review if the relocation plan complies with city ordinance,” Fitzpatrick said. “You can look and see if it does what you want it to do.”
Councilmember Dennis Higgins served on the council when it approved zoning changes in the Midway area in 2011 in preparation for light rail coming to the West Hill.
“This parcel in 2011 was not rezoned, but left as a mobile home park,” Higgins said. “In 2011, the council envisioned the entire area becoming part of a transit-oriented community, and this rezone is consistent with that.”
Bachman said in her email statement that the Midway group wanted the property zoned similar to other parcels. She declined to discuss potential development of the property with light rail coming to the area or a timeline for when the group might make a decision about any projects. A spokesman for Bachman said about 60 to 70 residents live at the park.
“While we have no immediate plans to redevelop this 4.56-acre parcel, the city-approved rezone brings the Midway Mobile Mansions property into alignment with upzoned parcels surrounding our site through the Midway Subarea Plan adopted by the Kent City Council in December 2011,” Bachman said. “The 1997 Midway Group LP has proudly owned and operated the Midway Mobile Mansions property for more than 30 years, serving as active and responsible members of the broader Kent community.”
Kenmore protects mobile homes
While Kent leaders plan to discuss the Midway Mobile Mansions issue in more detail at a council committee meeting, the city of Kenmore, northeast of Seattle and west of Bothell, took steps to preserve mobile home parks in eastern King County.
The Kenmore City Council in April approved new zoning for the city’s six existing manufactured housing communities that restricts other land uses possible on a manufactured housing community site (including multifamily apartments and condominiums) that it hopes should limit the potential for redevelopment of these properties, according to the city website. The council hopes this zoning change will protect the manufactured housing communities and the unsubsidized form of affordable single-family housing they provide.
King County closures
If Midway Mobile Mansions eventually closes, it will join a growing list of parks that have closed. Five mobile home parks have been closed in the last three years in King County, according to the state Department of Commerce. Three of the parks were in Des Moines, one in Seattle and one in Kirkland.
The Firs Mobile Home Park, 20440 International Blvd., in SeaTac is scheduled to close in 2020. Residents of that park fought to keep the property owner from selling before reaching an agreement that includes payments to the mobile home owners by the property owner.