SIERRA VISTA — Recreational vehicle residents at a mobile home park who were notified by the city that their homes are a code violation will be able to stay parked for a while.
Earlier this week, City Attorney Nathan Williams sent the RV residents’ representatives a letter informing them that they could remain at their properties at the Cloud 9 Mobile Home Park until the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission reviews the issue.
“The Sierra Vista Planning and Zoning Commission voted to explore textual amendments to the Sierra Vista City Code that would allow the use of recreational vehicles as permanent residences in manufactured home subdivisions,” Williams said.
“As a result of this action, the City has chosen to suspend enforcement of the Violation Notices pending the outcome of the amendment process,” Williams said in the letter.
The reprieve represents relief to RV residents Georgia and Grandy Montgomery, two septuagenarians who thought they would have to leave their home in November.
“I am thrilled,” Georgia Montgomery said Friday. “This is a lot of pressure off our backs.”
Her husband Grandy, who has health issues, agreed. “It’s hard to find a place to live that includes all the utilities. I’m overjoyed. I’m thankful to our attorneys for all the work they’ve done.”
In late July, the Montgomerys, their neighbor Amanda Root and a few others received letters from the city’s code enforcement division informing them that their recreational vehicles are in violation of code and had to be removed. The city’s letter was prompted by another resident’s complaint, city officials said.
Initially, the RV residents were given a month to comply, but when residents like the Montgomerys and Root complained that they had nowhere else to go and could not afford to move, the city softened its stance and extended the deadline.
The 65-year-old Root, the only one among the RV residents who owns her RV and the property it’s on, found out about the Institute For Justice, a non-profit organization that helps homeowners and business owners with legal issues related to government entities.
Last week, attorneys with the group gave the city the ultimatum that either the RV owners stay in their homes until their issue is reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission, or the Institute for Justice would take the city to court. The city had until Sept. 9 to reply. Williams’ letter is dated Sept. 8.
“It is a huge relief to property owners and tenants that they will not be forced to move their homes,” said the Institute for Justice’s senior attorney Erica Smith.
“The city’s attempt to kick people off their property was unjust and unconstitutional. The RVs in question were some of the most well-kept homes in the subdivision and we hope that the Zoning Commission does the sensible thing and allows them to stay permanently. If not, we’ll stand with the residents and protect their rights in court.”
Root is also glad to be able to stay put, at least for now.
“I’m grateful that I won’t be forced to move now, but this has been a very stressful time for me and my neighbors,” said Root, who has owned her property for 20 years and has lived in her RV for three years after her manufactured home burnt down in 2016.
“I hope the Zoning Commission acts quickly to clear the way for me to live in peace. I simply can’t afford to move and if the city kicks me off my property, I would be homeless.”
Speaking for Root in a letter about the temporary reprieve the city has agreed to, Andrew Wimer, a spokesman for the Institute for Justice, said Williams had recently stated that Sierra Vista had tried to work with Root after her original manufactured house burned in 2016.
Root claims though that the aid came in the form of phone numbers for mobile home manufacturers. Root also claims that this week the city offered her a free manufactured home, but it was not viable.
Wimer said Root visited the home “to find that it was not livable and would likely take thousands of dollars to fix. Amanda cannot afford to fix the home and wants to stay in her current home, which she loves,” according to the letter.
“It felt like a slap in the face,” Root told Wimer, the letter states. “It feels like the city is just trying to make itself look good in the news without actually helping.”
But Sierra Vista’s Economic Development Director Matt McLachlan addressed Root’s claims on Friday.
“The city did coordinate with Good Living Ventures who offered to donate a mobile home to Ms. Root,” McLachlan said in an email. “The City was also seeking to facilitate a partnership with a local nonprofit organization to make any needed renovations so Ms. Root would not have needed to cover those improvement costs.”
“Neither Ms. Root, nor a representative, has responded to the City or Good Living Ventures regarding that offer, although the Institute for Justice issued a public statement to that effect. Good Living Ventures had arranged a date next week for Ms. Root to see the mobile home in person.”
McLachlan said that after Root’s house was destroyed, “the City contacted local mobile home parks to see if a low-cost unit was available and provided information about local listings to a friend who was communicating with the City on Ms. Root’s behalf.”
“The City was unaware that Ms. Root ultimately replaced her mobile home with a recreational vehicle, despite having been informed of the zoning requirements associated with her property,” he said.