RIVERDALE — The Riverdale City Council has rejected the proposal to rezone the land where a mobile home park sits, sought by the property owner to make way for an apartment complex.
The issue, though, a heated one for the tenants of the site, Lesley’s Mobile Home Park, isn’t necessarily over. The City Council unanimously denied the rezone request, saying it didn’t comply with terms of the city’s general plan, which guides development. But at least one council member, Alan Arnold, expressed support for change, if it complies with the city’s guidelines and rules.
“I would honestly love to see the project. I agree with everything that Mr. Steiner has said about the property,” Arnold said, referencing comments made during Tuesday’s meeting on the matter by Matthew Steiner, representative of the landowner, an entity called H&H 39th Street.
Steiner didn’t give a clear idea of what comes next in the wake of Tuesday’s 5-0 denial and didn’t respond to a Standard-Examiner query on Wednesday seeking comment. At the same time, Mike Eggett, Riverdale’s community development director, said he hasn’t received any insights into what H&H 39th Street’s next steps may be. “I have no idea what they’re going to do,” Eggett said
But Jason Alexander, one of the park tenants, suspects H&H 39th Street may return with a modified zoning change request or seek change to city planning guidelines so a redevelopment plan can move forward.
“They’re going to scale back and try to go for a modified R4 or try to get the city to modify their master plan,” he said. H&H 39th Street had sought change in the current zoning designation for the land, which allows for a mobile home park, to an R4 zoning classification, which allows for apartments, townhomes and more.
Lesley’s Mobile Home Park, home to about 55 units on a parcel measuring 4.6 acres, is located at 671 W. 4400 South, adjacent to the Riverdale Road bridge that crosses the Weber River. The proposed rezone is thorny because many of the park tenants are lower-income wage earners, and if they’re forced out to make way for redevelopment, they will have limited housing options, advocates like Alexander say.
For city officials, meanwhile, one of the big issues seems to be the density of housing sought by H&H 39th Street. At an April 13 Riverdale Planning Commission meeting on the issue, officials worried that an R4 classification would allow for a denser development than contemplated in the city’s general plan, leading to the body’s recommendation that the rezone request be rejected.
Though what comes next isn’t clear, Steiner offered up the rough parameters of H&H 39th Street’s vision. He put forward a 120-unit apartment complex in Boise, Idaho, as a model for the possible Riverdale development. “This’ll be a very positive property for the city, in our opinion,” he said.
A complex with 110-120 housing units, he said, would allow for inclusion of a swimming pool and fitness center, a “nicer project for tenants” than what would be allowed in an R3 zoning classification. The housing density allowed under an R3 zoning classification, while more in line perhaps with the general plan guidelines for development in the zone where the mobile home park sits, isn’t enough to justify the expense of a feature like a pool, Steiner said.
Steiner also offered a dim view of life inside the mobile home park, another motivating factor for the redevelopment proposal. Some of the mobile homes don’t comply with city code, as the city has noted, he said, while crime is also an issue, though he didn’t offer specifics.
“For sure from the landowner’s standpoint it’s not working out. It’s not safe and it’s not working,” Steiner said. Efforts to move in newer mobile home units to upgrade conditions inside, he also noted, are hampered by relatively small lot sizes.
Alexander said Steiner’s grim view is exaggerated, representative of only a portion of tenants inside the park. “He’s painting the picture that the city needs to get us out of here,” he said.
Alexander pointed the finger back at mobile home park operators, saying they could have been doing more to address its conditions. Moreover, he maintains that newer units, generally longer, could be accommodated in the park by moving units deeper into individual lots.
Meantime, Alexander is spearheading a drive to encourage tenants in the park to clean it up. Still, he fears efforts to counter the redevelopment plan may be an uphill battle. “It’s just a tough spot to be in,” he said.