SIERRA VISTA — Amanda Root can keep her land or her home, but she can’t keep both.
That was the unanimous decision Thursday evening by the Sierra Vista City Council when it voted to do away with recreational vehicles at the Cloud 9 Mobile Home Park where Root lives. City staff and the Planning & Zoning Commission also recommended against allowing the RVs.
The 65-year-old Root has been fighting since July to be able to keep her RV on a parcel she owns at Cloud 9. She has lived at the subdivision on her own property for 20 years, but was given the RV in 2016 after her manufactured house burned to the ground the year before.
The city wants Root to have a structure on her property that conforms to code, and RVs are not one of them.
Root and a couple who live in an RV on rented land at the subdivision had been co-existing with their neighbors until July when another resident complained to the city about the RVs. That same month, Root and her RV compatriots received notices of violation from the city’s code enforcement division, informing them that their residences were not in compliance with zoning for that neighborhood.
Initially, the city told them they had to leave within 30 days. That changed when Root contacted the Institute for Justice and held a press conference in front of her home. The institute helps homeowners and small business owners with challenges from government entities.
On Thursday evening at the City Council meeting, attorney Paul Avelar of the Institute for Justice informed the panel he would be suing the municipality on behalf of Root and her neighbors, Georgia and Grandy Montgomery.
“There wasn’t a need for this,” Avelar said. “It came from a neighbor’s fight.”
Root, who is retired and handicapped, has said repeatedly she can’t afford a new manufactured house to place on her land.
“I have worked very hard to beautify my home,” Root said of her RV. “If I have to move, I will end up homeless.”
City officials have said they tried working with Root, even offering her a free manufactured house to live in. But Root said the house was in poor condition. She also said the city only referred her to a manufactured home company and nothing more. The Montgomery couple also said they cannot afford to move.
Sierra Vista Community Development Director Matt McLachlan told the City Council that the amendment Root was requesting called for permitting up to 30 percent of the total lots in manufactured home subdivisions to have recreational vehicles. The amendment, had it passed, would not have just affected Cloud 9, but two other subdivisions. There are a total of 352 parcels in the three subdivisions, city officials said, so that means 106 properties would be allowed to have RVs on them. There is at least one area in the city where RVs are allowed.
When Root addressed council members Thursday, she showed them photos of her RV. The pictures revealed garden pathways, multiple flowers and trimmed bushes dotting the property. Root also built a wooden privacy fence that rings the entire property.
Cloud 9 resident Ken Froiland told council members that he moved into the subdivision in 1980 because he was attracted by the area. He said that over the years however, the subdivision had turned into a “slum” because of the houses that had been abandoned. Froiland said Root and the Montgomerys both keep neat, well-maintained properties.
In a calm voice, Root told the City Council that she didn’t want to have to give up her house: “I love my home. It is safe, clean and well-cared for. I love my home and I want to stay there.”
Mayor Rick Mueller told Root that he hoped she and the city could still “reach a resolution.” He also said the city would suspend any eviction notices in order to give Root time to decide what course she would take.
“I think it’s a brave thing that you did to try and change an ordinance on your own, and I really admire you for it,” Mueller told Root.