Small lots lead to big problems

Those who follow Sussex County government have a hard time understanding why county officials struggle so much with issues involving manufactured homes. The issues range from the practical – problems with setbacks – to the unreal – how to replace an existing shed.

There is even an issue with what to call homes. I had no problem living in a trailer back in the 1970s. Somewhere along the line, the name was upgraded to mobile home, and now even that carries a derogatory connotation. Manufactured home is the term in vogue, but eventually the word “manufactured” will have to be removed to keep everyone happy.

After years of being bashed over the head by some outspoken manufactured home park residents, the county got smart and formed an official ad-hoc committee to come up with suggested improvements in county code to alleviate some of the perceived and real problems.

The committee met three times and, thanks to allowing input from those in the audience, hit all the hot buttons. Unfortunately, the recommendations for possible changes don’t reflect all of the discussions and don’t go far enough – at least that’s what some are saying.

I doubt anyone has a clue just how many people live in manufactured homes. In the Long Neck area alone, there are tens of thousands in parks all over the place. How many of those are dissatisfied with their living conditions? It’s a safe bet that the vast majority could care less about lot coverage and setbacks, and they don’t complain about the monthly rent.

So why the fuss?  Some residents, particularly those living in older parks, do have legitimate concerns that the county has overlooked for years. The rules and regulations were written without much concern for parks with smaller lots. Of course, no one could have predicted that large, doublewide manufactured homes would have nearly the floor space of small stick-built homes, dwarfing the tiny lots in older parks.

The council will address some of the issues with a set of proposed new ordinances, which is a great first step. The committee may need to go back in session because more work needs to be done.


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