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Concerns raised over MHC ordinance

As the City of Dickinson readies a new ordinance to take over mobile home court licensing from the state, concerns were raised at Tuesday's meeting of the city commissioners.

A first reading of the new ordinance, setting standards and requirements for MHCs in the city, was passed at the commissioners' Aug. 28 meeting.

This first draft, modeled after Fargo's ordinance, would require MHCs to have hard surface, four-season roads, and propane storage and storm management plans.

City Attorney Jan Murtha explained Tuesday that further changes would be made following comments received from the public.

A second reading was postponed to allow time for a committee to be formed to gather more input from MHC owners to better shape a new draft.

"Not everyone is going to be happy here," Mayor Scott Decker said. "But we're going to make every mobile home court a safe, enjoyable place for people in this city to live."

After the Aug. 28 meeting, letters were sent out to MHC owners about the ordinance, but did not include a copy of the first draft.

The draft would require MHC roads to be hard surfaced, either as asphalt or crushed concrete, and sufficient to support the city's emergency vehicles.

"State law requires roads to be maintained to facilitate movement," Murtha said. "Our fire code also requires a hard surface, without using the term 'pavement.'"

A proposed change would require pavement only for new mobile home courts. Current MHCs would only be required to maintain their surfaces and comply with the city fire code.

The draft also addresses propane safety, making the fire code clearer on size and location of tanks, and requires a storm management plan, including a physical shelter.

"Our code requires a shelter within the park itself," Murtha said.

Such regulations are especially important, Murtha said, following the devastation caused in August by a tornado in Watford City.

"What these tragedies offer you ... is foresight. We see what can happen," she said. "How we address that, you're being given the opportunity of foresight."

Hard surface roads are needed, Decker said, voicing concern for the city's ability to respond to emergencies quickly.

"I am concerned with the access to certain trailer parks by our law enforcement and first responders, and I think that needs to be addressed in this ordinance," he said. "Our No. 1 duty is the care of the people in the city."

He added, "We need to be able to respond to any emergency."

Requiring MHCs to pave their roads would not only impact MHC owners, but their residents, as well, Ted Bratten, North Park Campground owner, told commissioners.

"What we're looking at today will affect 10 percent of Dickinson's population potentially," he said. "You don't realize what you're going to do if you pass this ordinance as written."

North Park has two miles of road, Bratten said. Paving them would cost roughly $3 million.

Rents would have to be raised from $350 per month to $900 and tenants required to sign a 10-year lease.

"It would effectively put me out of business," he said. "I want to have great roads. My goal is to be the best park in town."

Several community members and MHC owners also voiced their concerns Tuesday.

Bill Strickland told how he moved to Dickinson in 2013, and was not able to find an apartment or even a hotel room.

"I bought a camper and couldn't find a lot to put the camper on. All the lots were full," he said. "But Ted made a spot for me. I moved in. I was a long term camper for three years in North Park."

He added, "I didn't live in the camper because I wanted to. I lived in a camper because I had to if I was going to live in Dickinson."

Jim Olsen, a Dickinson employer, said he has benefited from his employees having access to campgrounds and mobile home courts.

"When I first got here, people were living in their cars," he said. "The park has been a benefit for us in that case, because they can come in with their RVs and have a permanent address, and I can hire them and they can get going."

He added, "A lot of them do get apartments after and buy homes and stay here for a long time."

In other business:

Dickinson Police Department's new officer Jenny Rea was sworn in.

DPD Chief Dustin Dassinger introduced her to city commissioners, explaining Rea is a native of Dickinson, and graduate of University of North Dakota.

"I've always been interested in the criminal justice side of psychology," Rea said.

Rea was hired in March by the DPD and recently completed basic training, graduating as a police officer.

Commissioners offered Rea congratulations after she was sworn in.

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