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Riverdale mobile home park land rezoned, boding for redevelopment

By Tim Vandenack - | Aug 9, 2022

Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner

Lesley's Mobile Home Park in Riverdale is pictured Wednesday, April 7, 2021, photographed from the nearby bridge hauling Riverdale Road motorists over the Weber River. Residents worry that a planned rezone of the land could result in their forced removal to make way for other development.

RIVERDALE — Moves to dismantle a Riverdale mobile home park sitting off busy Riverdale Road, potentially displacing the 100 or so people still living at the site, have taken another step forward.

Still, there’s no specific timeline for redevelopment of the parcel where Lesley’s Mobile Home Park sits, though a lawyer indicated that multifamily residential is the development scheme under consideration. Following the Riverdale City Council decision last month to rezone the 4.62-acre plot where Lesley’s sits, there’s been “a lot of brainstorming” about what to do at the site, said Matthew Steiner a lawyer who represents the landowners, a Holladay-based entity called H&H 39th Street.

The new zoning classification, R-4, multiple-family residential, allows for a mix of apartments, patios and townhomes, but Steiner said the property owners need to meet with city officials to pinpoint exactly what sort of development would be permitted. Lesley’s sits at 671 W. 4400 South in the shadow of the Riverdale Road bridge that hauls traffic over the Weber River.

Meantime, one of the mobile home park residents who’s spoken out frequently as the redevelopment talk has unfolded over the past 16 months is reaching a point of exasperation. Jason Williams and many other residents spoke out against the proposed rezone at a Riverdale Planning Commission meeting late last June, worried about the lack of alternative housing options.

“You get to a point of just being disappointed with the whole system and you start saying, ‘What’s the point?'” Williams said Tuesday. At the June 28 public hearing, “I pretty much said, ‘Shame on the city for not getting involved.'”

Lesley’s is home to 55 pads and Williams estimates that around 100 residents probably live in the mobile home park, some in recreational vehicles, some even in tents.

He argued to city officials that there’s not enough housing stock for low-income people, a common refrain from housing advocates as housing prices boom and moves to shutter Lesley’s and other Northern Utah mobile home parks have edged forward. “They pooh-poohed that. They didn’t say anything,” he said.

Ultimately, the Riverdale Planning Commission voted to recommend the rezone sought by H&H 39th Street and the Riverdale City Council on July 19 voted 3-1 for the change. H&H 39th Street asked the City Council for a rezone in April 2021 that would have allowed for denser development — i.e., apartments — and the city council voted down the request, paving way for the follow-up proposal last month.

Mike Eggett, the Riverdale community development director, said mobile home residents can stay put for now. They face no imminent eviction.

But with the rezone and the specter of redevelopment, it’s likely a matter of time before mobile home park operators start efforts to clear the site. Per state law, park operators would have to give residents nine months’ notice before making them leave, a process now unfolding at the Cedarwood Mobile Home Park in Layton. Some residents of Wasatch View Estates, a Pleasant View mobile home park, say they’ll have to leave because the park is being revamped and upgraded and their units essentially don’t comply with new standards taking effect.

At the July 19 Riverdale City Council meeting, Eggett noted the many “code enforcement concerns and violations” over the years at Lesley’s, as well as fire hazards and other concerns.

In addressing the City Council at that meeting, Steiner, too, noted difficulties in raising the standards at the park. Its pads won’t accommodate newer-model mobile homes, making it difficult to get new mobile home tenants when a spot opens. In addressing the body on July 19, he noted that 26 of the tenants hadn’t yet paid their rent for the month as of that date.

“It’s just not been able to function the way it should as a viable mobile home park,” Steiner said. “There’s just lots of things that go on that make it very difficult to manage in a normal fashion.”

Redeveloping it, by contrast, “would accommodate more people in a healthier, safer environment,” Steiner said. The housing itself, he said, would be “relatively affordable.”

Steve Hilton, a member of the Riverdale City Council, was convinced.

“I believe the property owner has made a compelling case that this property would be better served to be redeveloped. I think we understand you have a problem. The city feels the pain of that same problem,” Hilton said at the meeting last month.

Council member Bart Stevens cast the lone no vote on July 19, saying he would favor a zoning classification that would permit less dense housing than what H&H 39th Street sought and received.

By contrast, many Lesley’s residents addressed the Planning Commission at its June 28 meeting to voice reservations, including Lola Heath. “She and her husband are disabled and live paycheck to paycheck. She cries every night wondering what to do and asked for a break,” read the minutes from the meeting.

Williams said many residents don’t seem to fully comprehend what’s happening, don’t understand that the upshot of the development plans could be their displacement. “Most of these people are going to end up homeless, really,” he said.

Steiner said talks about next steps are in the preliminary stages — a development proposal hasn’t even yet been put to planning officials. Thus, the landowners haven’t investigated the possibility of providing relocation assistance, presuming development plans proceed. “Frankly, they haven’t had discussions of that, any of that,” he said.

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