A routine public meeting held by Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor had ended Wednesday when a group of mobile home park owners and managers expressed their disagreement with the Commissioner’s decision to impose a temporary moratorium on adding new units.
Beverly Parker, the assistant to the owner of Cox Farms Community in Acworth said she came because she was concerned that the moratorium hindered the owners and managers abilities to run and maintain those communities and requested an exemption because “there’s one owner for a whole community and if we don’t maintain them and keep them viable...”
“That was done last month,” Taylor interrupted.
“Yes, and somehow we missed that,” Parker replied. “Our concern is that we have to...”
“That’s what we want you to do,” Taylor inserted. “Maintain them, and as you know, Beverly, from previous conversations, there are some problems there and this is a temporary moratorium...”
County administrator Peter Olson explained that the purpose of the moratorium is to give the staff some time to look at options and figure out if there are any amendments to the regulations that should be added.
“Last month we adopted a temporary moratorium prohibiting the installation of new mobile homes,” he said. “Basically a moratorium serves to preserve the status quo while we study the situation and decide on new amendments, so typically, its done when a community is considering revising the zoning ordinance, so we enacted a temporary moratorium through December to consider improvements to it.”
“For instance,” Taylor said, “last week someone brought in a mobile home during the night and put it on a lot. Had a neighbor not called us, we would have never known about it. I know it kinda punishes the people that do abide by the rules and I understand your concerns, but that moratorium only lasts ‘till December and we will propose whatever changes need to be done. I’m welcome to meet with you individually or if a small group wants to come in.”
Linda Graham, of Marietta, owner of the Woodsong and 75 mobile home communities, said she and many others depend on the parks for income and want to follow the rules, but some of the rules need to be discussed.
“My philosophy has always been that I don’t want to own anything I’m not willing to live in myself. So when a mobile home becomes old, we try to bring in a new one or a repo or whatever we can do to make [it] very nice so we can have people who will live there and keep them up. The moratorium is a problem because we want to keep fixing them up and make them nice in order to get the right renters. This has caused a real problem for us.”
“And for the county,” Taylor replied. “We have a disproportionate share of citizens complaints from mobile home parks. I’m just being frank with you folks, and we need to find a solution.”
Someone asked what was the nature of the calls.
“From code enforcement mostly,” Taylor replied. “But then the sheriff makes quite a few runs out to these parks too.”
“That’s why we want to keep them up as much as possible. We want them safe, clean and in mint condition,” Graham countered. “My philosophy has been we don’t have to be the Cadillac, but the least we’re going to be the Buick.”
Graham said her park manager, Debora Burgess, could attest to the fact that they try to keep unruly people out, but it can be a real problem.
“We haven’t always gotten total cooperation from the sheriff’s department when we called for it,” Burgess said. “The moratorium ties the manager’s hands because if they witness drug deals or domestic violence and call BCSO — well, over the years I have seen a lack of help — and in the last six to eight months things have escalated, so I stopped calling because they wouldn’t help.”
She listed several incidents where deputies answered a call but wouldn’t intervene.
“We understand the county’s side of it,” she said. “But the county needs to understand our side of it.”
Emmett Jordan, owner of 105 Park in Adairsville, took exception to Taylor’s assertion that mobile home parks are the cause of more crime.
“You mentioned that a disproportionate amount of the issues were police calls coming from mobile home parks,” he said. “So, you kind of use that as a reason for shutting down ...”
“Absolutely, we sure did,” Taylor replied.
“So, what you’re saying is if they don’t live in a mobile home, they behave better?” Jordan asserted. “The issues they have is with their lives and that isn’t going to change by moving them to an apartment.”
Taylor admonished Jordan that bringing more mobile homes into the community isn’t going to help either, so it’s imperative to try to find a solution instead of talking about behavior problems.
“So, if you increase the number of mobile homes that’s going to make the behavior of the population worse?” Jordan countered. “That seems to be the logic as to why you want to limit mobile homes — because it increases the crime rate. I didn’t know there were studies out there that shows that those that live in mobile homes behave worse.”
Taylor stood his ground.
“There’s a disproportionate amount of calls,” he said. “There’s no one here from 911, but if they were, I think they would agree that that’s where some of the problems come from.”
“It seems you’re punishing the mobile home residents...” Jordan said.
“Im not punishing anybody; we’re trying to make the community safer,” Taylor said.
“So, by moving in more mobile homes it makes the county more dangerous?” Jordan asked.
“I just said the calls are disproportionate in a mobile home park compared to a traditional community,” Taylor replied.
“I have been in this business for 13 or 14 years and what I have found is that 90 to 95 percent of these people are living in a socio-economic basis where they are at the poverty line or below and on full government assistance. They are very good people, quite frankly they are better than anybody sitting in this room, because they work hard, live on nothing and give to their church. They are the pillars of society; they just don’t have the economic resources to contribute more. Trying to say that mobile home parks cause people to behave worse....”
“I didn’t say that,” Taylor countered.
“The point is that you’re saying if you left the county wide open to mobile homes moving in, you would get a lot worse behavior,” Jordan said. “But that would be true anywhere in any type of housing. We cannot ordinance people to behave.”
At that point, Taylor pointed out that the suggested meeting with the park owners and managers would better solve the impasse.
“But we aren’t going to meet to continue an argument,” he said. “We are going to come up with constructive ideas and solutions to the problem.”
In other business, Taylor:
• Approved an agreement with the city of white to conduct its elections.
• Approved an agreement with the juvenile court and Highland Rivers for addictive disease services.
• Approved an agreement with Architect Carter Watkins to study space needs in the courthouse.
• Approved an agreement with LifeQuest to provide ambulance billing services.
• Authorized a lease agreement for a rubber tire asphalt paver and two Mack chassis for $649,049.
• Authorized a grant application to the U.S. Dept. of the Interior and the Georgia Humanities Council for funding for preservation of sites significant to African-American history.
• Approved the donation of a surplus transit van to Hickory Log Vocational School.
The county commissioner will hold a regularly scheduled public meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 10 a.m. in the Commissioner’s Conference Room, Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Building 135 W. Cherokee Ave.