SIERRA VISTA — Legal advocates for a group of recreational vehicle residents living at a mobile home park who are in violation of city code have given Sierra Vista officials an ultimatum.
Let the RV residents at Cloud 9 Mobile Home Park stay until their issue is reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Board, or the issue will be decided in court.
“...It is our understanding that Sierra Vista’s Planning and Zoning Commission has voted to consider amendments to the zoning code that would allow these residents to continue living in RVs at their current addresses,” the Aug. 31 letter by attorneys Erica Smith and Paul Avelar states.
“Specifically, the proposed amendments would allow an RV as a primary residence in Manufactured Home Residences subdivisions.”
“Given the Commission’s action, we request that the City rescind its letters demanding that the residents move while the City considers the amendments to the code. Again, several of these residents are elderly, on fixed incomes, and have health problems.”
“We want to spare them the extreme stress and worry of trying to find a new place to live. Many of them cannot afford to move anywhere else. Rescinding the removal notices will allow residents peace of mind while they await the outcome of the proposed zoning amendment. If the City refuses to rescind these removal notices, however, we will be forced to bring suit to protect these residents’ rights.”
The city has until Sept. 9 to act, the letter says.
In an email Thursday afternoon, City of Sierra Vista spokesman Adam Curtis said the city is “reviewing the letter and has no comment at this time.”
Smith and Avelar, attorneys at the Institute for Justice, an Arlington, Virginia-based organization that helps residential and commercial property owners faced with battles against government entities, were responding to a letter they received from Sierra Vista City Attorney Nathan Williams in mid-August.
Williams referenced the code violation presented by the RV on resident Amanda Root’s property at Cloud 9. He said the city offered Root help when her manufactured house was destroyed by fire in 2016.
Root is the only resident among those in violation who owns her RV and the land it’s on. The others are rented out.
“...the City worked extensively with her (Root) regarding her efforts to purchase a replacement manufactured home,” Williams said. “She was well-informed at that time, and has been since, that recreational vehicles are not authorized to be used as permanent residences in Cloud Nine. She has chosen to ignore that prohibition.”
Williams said in his letter that the only action taken thus far against the RV owners is the notice sent to them in late July concerning their violation of the city’s zoning ordinance. He said the RV owners were not offered any option to appeal.
“...no appeal options were offered because none exist; a lot owner cannot be granted a variance that would change the use permitted within the zoning district,” Williams said.
The issue with the RVs came to light when another resident at Cloud 9 complained about them to the city, Curtis said recently.
Root has owned her property for two decades, and she put the RV on her tract in 2017. When she and others received a letter from a code enforcement officer in late July stating that their homes are in violation, she learned about the Institute for Justice and contacted them.
Avelar held a press conference in front of Root’s residence last month to decry the city’s position. He said then that he and Smith were prepared to fight the city in court if necessary.
The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission became aware of the situation and Vice Chairman Brad Snyder told the Herald/Review that the panel voted unanimously to look at the rules in place for RVs. It’s not clear when the issue will appear on the commission’s agenda.
Meanwhile, Matt McLachlan, director of the city’s community development department, said the city has been willing to work with any RV owner who needs assistance in order to come into compliance at Cloud 9. McLachlan said so far, none of the RV owners have come forward to ask for help.
“The letter sent by the City was preliminary notification of the violations. Any eviction notice would come from the property owner – not the city,” McLachlan said in an email earlier this week.
“Our goal is to work with the property owners on establishing a reasonable plan and timeline for achieving compliance. In mid-August, the city made contact with all four property owners and extended the deadline to present a compliance plan from 30 days to 90 days.”
“The city’s goal is to ensure the property owners are moving towards compliance and can agree on a timeline that’s feasible for them. If the property owners do not present or agree on a plan, the city has the option of filing a court petition and scheduling a hearing before the city’s magistrate for both sides to present their case,” McLachlan added. “The city’s magistrate would then make a decision on the matter.”