City Mistake on Zoning Requirement Adds to Financial Hardship

by Dena
(Fort Pierre, SD)

Visitor Question: My family has owned a mobile home park for over 10 years now. After the flood of 2011 the basement of our two-story home began to cave in. We had three different companies come inspect it to see what our options were.

According to the reports submitted by those agencies we had no other choice than to submit to foreclosure and let the bank reclaim our home. We still had four dependent children living at home.

The only option we had next to homelessness was to renovate one of the mobile homes that was vacant from the flood. After the renovations were complete we moved and settled into our new small home. The mobile home that was next door to our new home was declared a complete loss from the amount of flood damage and was subsequently removed.

This in turn took that extra income from the lot rent out of our budget. A good friend of ours stated that they were interested in moving their mobile home to the lot and being our neighbors.

Over the course of the next three months we filed for the necessary permits and waited for everything to be approved and signed by the city engineer. Once we were given permission to move her trailer and garage to the lot we hired the moving company to do the job.

Almost immediately we received a letter from the same city stating that the mobile home that they had previously just given permission to move was all of a sudden not in zoning standards and therefore had to be moved by the 15th of next month.

I tried to call the city and have a conversation with them as both our building and moving permits were both approved and signed by the city employees.

To make a long story short they are now attempting to make us pay a total of $12,000 in costs to have the trailer moved back 10 feet as well as the one behind it too so they will meet code. We also have to extend the cables to our utilities and cut down three gigantic dead trees to make room for the trailer.

This was clearly a mistake made by, not one but two, different city engineers that are paid by our local city. We are already completely in debt as we just lost our home to the bank and at the same time lost all three renters that were living in our mobile homes for majority of 2011 year due to the flood.

The last thing I should also mention is that the trailer house (including the hitch) that was on the lot previously is the same length as the mobile home that was placed on the lot.

We have now hired a lawyer and have started communicating with the city officials. We also pointed out the fact that there are numerous other homes and mobile homes within the city and one even on the same street as ours that have building structures that are even closer to the curb.

I am confused as to why the city is not taking on any responsibility for a mistake that they made themselves, and if they are going to spend more tax-paying dollars fighting their mistake than how is it that they don't make any other residents have standards up to the same code.

Editors Comment: Wow, we should say first of all how sorry we are that you had to go through flooding, foreclosure, and now a zoning violation and code enforcement situation.

It's very frustrating when a city makes mistakes, as clearly someone did when they gave you the original approval and then later decided that your manufactured housing placement didn't meet the zoning code requirements for setback.

This happens everywhere that zoning exists, in our experience. It's something that every city manager, mayor, and zoning administrator should try hard every day to avoid.

The best advice is hiring a good attorney, which you've done. This is an example of a situation that is so complex that it is best dealt with by first of all, putting some muscle behind your side of the argument, and second, by sorting out what your rights and responsibilities under the law really are.

Also learn about zoning variances to see if there is any potential for relief through that method.

Financial hardship in itself isn't legal grounds for granting of a zoning variance, but your attorney might be able to help you find another angle that would result in the granting of a variance.

Good luck with recovering from the flooding and foreclosure.

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