The Harker Heights City Council’s decision to allow mobile home parks to apply for planned development permits is one that will benefit the city.
As a result of the vote, owners will have more flexibility over how to design and structure their parks and give them incentive to make improvements to the properties. At the same time, the city will have more input on the types and ages of homes that go into the parks.
Until Tuesday’s vote, the city had excluded mobile homes from planned developments. Moving forward, mobile home park owners will have to negotiate with the city’s planning and zoning commission and council before making any changes that conflict with the current mobile home ordinance.
At first glance, extending the planned development option to mobile home parks seems to have achieved a win-win resolution. Harker Heights has opened the door to upgrades and aesthetic improvements to these parks, and investors have been given more incentive and flexibility to make those positive changes happen.
Still, the issue of mobile homes in Harker Heights is a touchy one for many residents.
Many mobile home parks are deteriorating and depreciating in value. And in several residential areas throughout the city, older mobile homes can be found wedged between site-built homes — long a subject of controversy and discussion.
Over the past two decades, the city has taken steps to regulate the placement of mobile homes. Following recommendations from a mobile home task force, the council in the mid-1990s adopted an ordinance requiring a 35-foot clearance between homes, paved parking and minimum setback standards.
In 1999, the council also eliminated the city’s “mixed residential” zoning, which allowed mobile homes to sit side-by-side with site-built homes. The resulting ordinance allowed manufactured housing located in these areas to be replaced one time, resulting in the phasing out of noncompliant residences.
Still, achieving neighborhood zoning that is fully compliant likely will take decades to realize.
City Manager Steve Carpenter noted that in the mid-1990s, mobile homes accounted for 31 percent of the city’s residential property, but only 4 percent of the appraised property value. He also said Harker Heights had more manufactured homes than Killeen and Waco combined.
But the situation is changing somewhat. Last year, mobile homes accounted for just 16 percent of the city’s housing, he said. And he doesn’t expect the new planned-development option will lead to a big influx of mobile home parks.
But it will provide the impetus to upgrade existing parks’ amenities and appearance. And if the city beefs up code enforcement and maintenance standards for mobile home parks, as Carpenter advocates, the parks’ residents and the city as a whole will benefit.
That’s an outcome everyone can live with.