City zoning in Indiana trying to bully me


#1

Hello everyone, I am in a pickle.
I recently purchased a mobile home park with only one home on it, the home is rented. The other lots are ready for me to move homes onto, modern electric peddle stools, gas hook ups, water , sewer , ready to rock.
I have homes bought and scheduled to move in a few months. I am in possession of all the original paperwork, site plans , everything that was used when the city first granted permission for this site to become a mhp in the 80’s. Sounds good right?
I get a call from a city council memeber asking if I would be interested to sell, it seems the city wants to buy the land to relocate a historical building of there’s three blocks away to my site. They want to pick up the old building, and move the entire thing to my site. I told him a price. The next day the council memeber calls and said "the council thinks your price is a little steep " (its not, considering the land improvements) he then says "I would check with zoning before you go to move any homes there, the zoning has changed in that area and you are only grandfathered in for the one home"
The home on the site is rented btw.
I then spoke to zoning and she repeated what the city councilman told me.
I told her that I am legally non complying and that if the park would shut down, it couldn’t open back up, but as it is I am grandfathered as a mhp and the city can’t restrict my land use on a per lot basis.
The state of Indiana just renewed my license to operate and that license says in black and white how many lots I am allowed to operate.

They are trying to restrict my use to make me sell for a loss. Big bullies.
Anyway, I’m pretty confident I have got this.
Do they have a leg to stand on?? That is my question.


#2

Sorry to hear about your situation.

Not trying to discourage or deter you, but am speaking from experience as a spec home builder and subdivision developer for 30 years prior to being a park owner. Before you throw more money at the problem, keep in mind that your park is subject to compliance with the building codes as well as zoning. And the local building inspector can simply be a necessary nuisance or at the direction of a hostile city council, he (she) can become your worst enemy.

My understanding is that unless you’re buying used homes, you will need to upgrade your sites to meet HUD code for foundations and that adds a significant cost. I bought 13 brand new homes for two parks I own in MI last Fall, and had to tear up the existing runners and replace with 24" X 42" concrete footers every 8 feet for the concrete block piers to sit on. Add in drainage, utility line relocates, and other prep work and the cost was $3-4K per site. In both parks, the local building inspector applied the HUD code, and while they didn’t nit pick me to death, it was clear that they expected compliance. If the local building inspector shares the sentiment of the city council, you’re in for a head butting session that can delay your project for an indeterminate amount of time.

Just my opinion. Best of luck to you.


#3

Thank you for your response, I am ok with complying with building code to place homes, they want to restrict me from placing homes. Thier position is that the park is grandfathered in, but only for one home. My position is that the park is grandfathered as a whole and I can place as many homes as my state license allows.
They want to restrict how many home I can place so they can make my park useless, then offer peanuts to buy it so they can place a city building on the land.


#4

Tell it to the judge.


#5

Haha exactly. I just didn’t know if anyone has had any experience dealing with this, or how it turned out for them.


#6

Search some of the other forums for ‘shut down park’ or ‘closing park.’ A municipal lawyer should be understanding of the applicable laws regarding the situation. It definitely does sound like the city is being a bully. __


#7

So, I was just thinking, the City may have you on a technicality. Since single home on single parcel is not a mobile home “Park” use but a residential use, you in fact may have lost your non-conforming use status. MHP by definition equals multiple MH on a single parcel.

I think I would consider it a single family parcel and bargain accordingly.

Time is against you as the City can stall all day long or condemn through eminent domain power while you cannot get legal compliance until you satisfy them or get a court order. Getting a court order is risky (see above), expensive, may compound your losses, and besides, you have to deal with this City if you want to continue to do business with them. My advice is to realize you didn’t buy what you thought, and you should agree to dispose of it with the City for an amicable outcome before you are left with a beached whale on your hands.


#8

The question you should ask yourself before you dig in is will they pay enough to cover all your costs up to this point in time. If they are in fact willing to pay more than enough to cover your costs you may want to reconsider a fight.
Likely hood is if you do win you will be operating in a very hostile environment going forward.
I am not suggesting quitting only trying to picture what exactly you gain by winning.


#9

May also want to consider a development JV with the city. A 30 year leasehold agreement where they put that historic building could be a nice low maintenance deal. Take the remainder of the land and put SFH or parcel off accordingly. Just because they don’t want an MHP doesn’t mean you can’t make money.

If you try to keep it MHP check the sunset provisions in the city code to see how that could be used to argue your zoning has reverted.

Keep us posted.


#10

Thank you all for your input. I meet with my attorney in a few days. After reviewing the city’s zoning ordinance I’m pretty sure they will use " non conforming uses 1-b to explain why I can only have the one home, and not add any more. It’s a small park. I’m not sure it’s worth the fight.


#11

Could you argue that the roads are in use and they are on the land? Just because all of the lots don’t have homes doesn’t mean the infrastructure isn’t being utilized. Might be worth having your attorney talk to the city attorney.


#12

Good point. Or hypothetically, what if we were talking about a used car lot instead of a MHP, under this ordinance, as used vehicles were sold would inventory not be allowed to occupy the portion of land that had the last used car on it? Just because the parking space was not being “actually used” under its grandfathered status? Just weird. I will definitely keep you posted. I have a conference call with city and my attorney in a few weeks


#13

Greg comments are worthy of more debate for your mind. What is your time worth? If the city would offer close to the price you paid I would move on since attorney’s fees are expensive and sometimes finding an attorney aggressively fighting on your behalf in small towns will be difficult to find since conflict of interest are possibilities. I have been in courtrooms were the attorneys were fighting it out in the courtroom later finding out they golf together all the time while both parties in the suit think their best interests are being served!!! Cities have attorneys on their payroll–no big deal for them!!


#14

Exactly. And then in the end, after the fight, how much have I paid for the park?? Just to own a park in a town that hates me with BOH and code enforcement ready to write me up over the most minor violations. Not good business.


#15

Is this as park recognized by IDPH?
https://www.in.gov/isdh/23280.htm

I would talk with those guys. Im only passive on an IN deal but from my initial DD on a couple that fell apart, it seems like they are more regulatory on what is a park , what is not… and were very helpful when the park i was trying to by had a bunch of violations.


#16

TheGerald,
First off, this really sucks that it’s happening to you.

Secondly, I have found a few key phrases have really helped me when dealing with Over Bearing Enforcement officers.

My suggestion is the write the building department and the City Councilman a very nice letter asking them to Cite the Code that you are violating and Cite their authority to enforce that code on you. I would CC your letter to HUD and the State Agency in Charge of MHPs in Indiana.

What will likely happen is they will be able to cite the code and you’ll know right away where you stand or (even more likely) the will not be able to cite any code and they will back off.

I have experienced multiple times where an inspector/official wants me to comply with “Policy”. When I have asked them to cite the code in writting they tend to disappear.

A few things you have on your side.

  1. They don’t know how rich you are. Act as if you could easily write your Attorney a $1MM check.

  2. The HUD has been pursuing FAIR HOUSING violations. In essence your argument (include this in your letter) is that most Mobile Home Park residents are in a protected class. The City’s policy to shut down the park could be construed as discriminating against race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status.

Best of Luck.

AW


#19

Hey TheGerald,
Sorry to hear about this. Nothing new really to add. I think keeping the end result that you desire in mind is helpful. Which is probably not just to own this park, or win this fight, but to make a good return on your investment. More importantly, not lose your capital. So some kind of a win/win settlement with the city may be the best option. Even though what they are doing is BS and an underhanded way to do things. Legal fights are expensive, and the city probably has basically free (salaried) legal representation. Good luck to you!

Do you live in Indiana?

Best,
JW


#20

Google : disparate impact


#21

Hi @TheGerald, Where did you end up on this?


#23

Is your attorney strictly in Indiana? If not could you please provide this information,Having a similar issue. Thank you