RIVERDALE — The Riverdale Planning Commission is recommending against a controversial rezone proposal of a mobile home property that had generated strong backlash from some of the tenants there.
The 6-1 decision stemmed from the determination that the proposed zoning classification didn’t fit with the city’s masterplan, the document that guides development in Riverdale. “It has nothing to do with you guys, the landowner,” Amy Ann Spiers, the commission chairperson said after Tuesday night’s vote.
The action was met with relief by one of the tenants of the property, Jason Williams. He and others have pushed against the rezone, worried those living in the mobile home park, including many lower-wage workers and others on fixed incomes, would be forced out if it goes through.
“We walked out of there with hope,” Williams said Wednesday. Lesley’s Mobile Home Park sits at the site in question at 671 W. 4400 South, and the owner of the 4.62-acre parcel, H&H 39th Street, seeks a rezone that would allow apartments, townhomes and other sorts of development.
Tuesday’s action, though, doesn’t end things. The Riverdale City Council has final say on the request — the planning commission only made a recommendation — and that body is to take the matter up at its April 20 meeting, according to Mike Eggett, Riverdale’s community development director. What’s more, Williams suspects H&H 39th Street reps may return to the planning commission with a request for a different type of rezone, something that may fit better with masterplan guidelines.
H&H 39th Street reps hadn’t publicly disclosed what they planned to do with the mobile home property if the rezone were successful, but a company rep, Matthew Steiner, offered some insights at Tuesday’s meeting. The property abuts the Riverdale Road bridge that hauls traffic over the Weber River, south of a larger mobile home park, Riverside Village.
The property owner “would like the flexibility to be able to go with a denser townhome or a lower-density apartment-type property,” Steiner said. “The landowner really wants the flexibility to do something with the property and their hands are tied in the current conditions.”
Steiner further lamented conditions in the mobile home park and difficulties in improving the quality of housing inside of it. The property owner has at times been cited for violations of Riverdale code because tenants don’t properly maintain their units. He also said crime has been a problem at times in the park.
Planning commissioners focused on the potential density of development inside the mobile home park if the rezone to the R4 classification were allowed. Kent Anderson, a planning commission member, determined that perhaps as many as 150 or so apartment units could be built on the land under R4 guidelines, up from the 55 or so mobile homes now there.
Similarly, Spiers earlier on in the meeting had expressed caution about allowing the R4 rezone. “I don’t think there’s the space there for it. If you go R3, it seems to fit in there a little better, but that would be another discussion,” she said.
The R3 zoning classification, broadly speaking, allows for less-dense development than an R4 zone, according to Eggett. Williams suspects H&H 39th Street may return to the planning commission with a request for an R3 rezone, though Steiner made no indication at Tuesday’s meeting what H&H 39th Street’s next moves may be.
Aside from the rezone issue, those living in Lesley’s Mobile Home Park face a 42.4% increase in rent and utility costs on June 1. Williams said the mobile home park residents have contacted a lawyer and are weighing legal action to prevent the jump.
Park operators informed residents of the planned increase, from $553 a month to $787.50, on March 26. That came just three days after an earlier planning commission hearing, when many tenants publicly spoke out against the rezone request, prompting accusations from Williams and others that the increase was a retaliatory move.