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MHC owners challenge new city ordinance

City Commissioners Tuesday held a third reading of a proposed mobile home court license ordinance.

The city is taking over the duty from the state starting in 2019.

A public hearing on the new ordinance in September caused an outcry from MHC owners. A committee was formed, with MHC owners and city commissioners Jason Fridrich and Nicole Walla participating.

"The committee met twice, had a very fruitful discussion, a lot of the owners were very vocal in participating, expressing their concerns," Jan Murtha, city attorney, explained Tuesday. "As a result of those discussions and people who provided input, this (new) draft was created."

Committee meetings were held on Sept. 26 and Oct. 26 with the majority of MHC owners.

Following a meeting Monday, a requirement that tie-downs be used on RVs was removed, Leonard Schwindt, city building inspector, said.

"Research done by the owners, stating their concerns to us, it's problematic," he said. "It creates more damage. We agreed we would remove that from the ordinance."

Because of ongoing issues with unclaimed animals, the ordinance also requires MHC owners to keep pet records.

There were no objections to its inclusion during committee meetings, Murtha said.

Dickinson Police Chief Dustin Dassinger said it has been a problem in the city's trailer courts.

"We have a huge feral cat population that we're trying to get control of, and the pet licensing, that works if people actually license their pets," he said. "We thought this would be a way to help us deal with this problem."

MHC owners protested the newest draft, saying there was confusion during the committee meetings.

Per the draft, the limit an RV or trailer can stay in a mobile home court or park is 270 days. The number is an increase by MHC owners from 180 days, as it covers a construction season.

Randy Ulmer, MHC owner, said Tuesday that he believed, from the meetings, that if RVs met all weather standards they would be allowed to stay all year.

"We shouldn't discriminate if they have a properly coded RV for our zone," Ulmer said. "To punish these people because that's their home is wrong."

Fridrich disputed the claim, saying if RVs stayed year-round they would become permanent residences.

"We do not want campers and trailers to be permanent residences. They are mobile vehicles. They're made to come in and out," he said. "There's not going to be anyone from the staff who is going to support anything that makes a trailer a permanent residence in Dickinson. I sure won't support it."

RVs and trailers can stay any time of the year, he added, as long as they meet standards for local weather.

Schwindt concurred, saying the city does not want RVs to be permanent structures.

"They don't meet our wind loads, snow loads, and there's no way to show they do," he said. "For a year-round occupancy, it doesn't meet the minimum requirements of the code."

Murtha disputed the notion that there is no point in setting a limit on how long RVs can stay in a park if they're just going to move from one place to another.

"For those who are in wonderful compliance, there's probably no point," she said. "One of the intents is to discourage those who aren't in compliance from continuing to exacerbate an unsafe condition."

Ted Bratten, North Park Campground owner, criticized Fridrich's handling of the meetings, calling him overly firm and saying the group was intimidated by him.

"To end the meeting we had to agree, quite frankly," he said. "The only way we could disagree, at this point, would be in a public hearing, where everybody's hearing it."

A final reading of the MHC license ordinance will be held at the next commissioners meeting on Nov. 20.