Grandfather Clause

As a young entrepreneur investing in remodeling an existing mobile home park, what kind of curveballs can I expect from the planning board and county officials when submitting my plat? What kind of rights do we have under our grandfather clauses?

Ask them!  Start by asking what the approval process is, and then work your way to the people to will actually do the approving, and ask them what you have to conform to if you “remodel.”  You won’t get anywhere trying to get around them.  If you hear answers you don’t like, you should talk them out and get to an agreement (in writing!  I like to email a summary of what was discussed when I have follow-up from these kinds of meetings, which there always is) that you can live with before you even think about spending any more money. You might have rights that the approval board would ignore, and not tell you about, but if you think you have rights that the board doesn’t think you have, well, city hall is going to win.Brandon@Sandell

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You need to get a Certificate of Zoning prior to buying the park. This tells you how many lots you are allowed to have, and if the park is legal conforming, legal non-conforming (grandfathered) or illegal.I don’t know why you would be talking about needing a “Plat” as you do not need to ask any permission to renovate, if you are grandfathered, unless you want to add spaces.The only ordinances that relate to your park are those in effect when it was built, That’s what grandfathering is all about. The only person who has a higher trump card than grandfathering is the fire marshal – that’s why high density parks can be dangerous. 

I inherited the park and its in pretty bad shape. I have to demolish and replace all trailers. I have six mobile homes sharing three sewage tanks, which doesn’t match today’s standards. Knowing how expensive these tanks are I would like to keep things the way they are but heard I may run into some opposition. I came close to demolishing the trailers but found out I would have trouble replacing them if I didn’t submit a plat first or negotiate with town officials on whether or not I can even put manufactured homes back on my property.

Find the best local land-use attorney or contact your local MHC chapter for advice. Septic is often used by planning departments to shut operators down so get that straight. With septic, you can bring in a state/city/county certified designer and have them do an unofficial assessment of your system (that is not submitted to the gov). I would start with the local MHC lawyers and let them know what you are doing and want to do.

The City where our second Mobile Home Park is located has very strict Zoning Rules for MHPs.  The City really dislikes Mobile Home Parks.  Thus, they will shutdown Non-Conforming Mobile Home Parks in an instant (ie…MHPs that lack the minimum number of Mobile Homes with electricity; minimum acreage; minimum road frontage; minimum green space percentage). Thus, for our particular City if a Mobile Home Park is Non-Conforming AND at least two Mobile Homes WITH ACTIVE ELECTRICITY are not on the property, the City will pull the Zoning of Mobile Home Park.Jazdalex, since you inherited the MHP and are the proud new Owner ('Congratulations), go to the Zoning Department immediately.Find out what the Zoning Requirements are for Mobile Home Parks in that particular municipality.  Just get the Zoning Specifications and do not talk about your Mobile Home Park in particular.   If you need to get Active Electricity on a specific number of homes, do it as soon as possible (or whatever other requirements you need).Once you meet the Municipalities Zoning Rules then go to them with your specifics.How much acreage do you have?If you have enough acreage, you will probably be forced to have a one to one ratio for the Septic Tanks to Mobile Homes.However, if you do not have enough acreage, you might have to connect to City Sewer (if available).  Connecting to City Sewer will cost a pretty penny.We wish you the very best! 

Thank you all for the advice. Septic among other utilities sounds pretty tricky. Unfortunately, the town the mobile home park is in is small, everyone knows everyone. So it’ll be hard (not impossible) to maneuver without raising eyebrows. The park sits on a little bit over an acre, so it’s packed in tight. I have a lot of ideas but I have to make sure of the restrictions before I try to implement. Thanks again for you all’s time.

The size of the property for a park is not feasible for any reasonable profit–unless if has another higher value use–sorry!!!

You have to watch out with zoning and site-plan revisions with the gov in these circumstances. They will trick you into a revision or permitting process and leave you wide open for a snatch & grab shutdown. Be very careful with septic issues. On grandfathering/vesting, it is very complex law. Here’s an example, you have illegal pads and bootlegged septic systems that have been in place for 30 years. If you can prove that that gov knew about it and failed to correct it or put in violations, then you may have waiver rights and it can be established as legal-nonconforming. It is not worth buying parks with these issues unless it is an upside that you know you may not obtain. Get with the local MHC groups and speak with their participating lawyers or recommended lawyers for clarification.

Folks here know way more about these things than I do, but I know in my small park expenses can skyrocket quite easily. In a park like that, facing those issues…wow…I’d think very very carefully before getting financially involved. May be better just to sell it for land value.

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Thank you all for your insight. This property among others been in my family since the mid 1900’s so I’m a bit reluctant to sell any of it. I will take you all’s advice to speak with legal council before taking any further action. Again thank you.

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Due Diligence is key.

I couldn’t agree with you more!