Court Decision Moot After State Acts First

April 16, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

The Washington state Supreme Court on Thursday (April 15) upheld the city of Pasco’s ability to regulate mobile home parks, according to The News Tribune, Tacoma.

Paul Lawson, a mobile home park owner, had claimed the state’s Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Act overruled a former Pasco city code prohibiting recreational vehicles in mobile home parks.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court disagreed with Lawson and ruled the city did have concurrent jurisdiction with the state over mobile home parks.

But Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield said the court’s decision doesn’t have a real impact, other than time and money spent on the case. “Legislation that the state enacted last year made that whole argument moot,” he said.

The 2009 law he referred to prevents cities from barring RVs from mobile home parks but clarifies that cities can regulate RVs used as primary residences in the parks for safety and health issues.

In December, the Pasco City Council amended the city’s code to allow RVs to be in the parks and set safety and sanitary standards.

The city previously had limited RVs to RV parks after having issues with RVs in mobile home parks without access to sanitation facilities and proper connections to utility systems, Crutchfield said. He recalled one case of a camper on the back of a pickup that was improperly connected to sewer and water through hoses.

The court case started when Lawson appealed a city code enforcement board’s May 2006 ruling against allowing Ty Gemmell to live in an RV in Lawson’s mobile home park at 2525 W. A St.

Franklin County Superior Court Judge Cameron Mitchell decided the city’s ordinance conflicted with state law. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision, siding with Pasco. The case then went to the Supreme Court.

Gemmell said the Legislature made the right move when it changed the law to specifically allow RVs in mobile home parks. “There are so few RV parks that are really acceptable,” he said.

Gemmell still lives in the mobile home park on A Street, although he traded in his fifth-wheel for a mobile home after getting married. While the court case was ongoing, he was allowed to continue living in his RV.

RV parks only have enough room for the RVs, and each one is close to neighbors, Gemmell said. And the parks are in commercial zones, he said, which typically means traffic noise. “You can’t sleep,” he said.

Mobile home parks are in residential zones, and Gemmell said he also has a nice fenced lot.

Neither Lawson nor his attorney could be reached to comment on the decision.

So far, no Pasco mobile home parks have applied for a permit to allow RVs in their lots, said Mitch Nickolds, Pasco inspection services manager.

The RVs must be connected to sewer and water and have their septic systems protected from freezing, Nickolds said. Electrical connections need to be made through rated wiring with safe, appropriately-sized connections.

If the RV doesn’t have a bathroom, it can only be in the park if the park provides accessible bathroom and shower facilities for both genders, he said.

People also must have a city permit to add a carport, patio or deck to their mobile home or RV, Nickolds said. They also need approval from the park owner.

Gemmell said the change in state law and city code will open up opportunities for those who call an RV their home.


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