Question about zoning...very odd

Hello MHU community. I found a “deal” through a local broker and visited the property with my partner. It is owned by an 82 year old lady who runs the park on her own. It is zoned for 27 rv/campgound lots and 5 mobile home lots. When I visited the park I was shocked to see that there was 5 rv’s and the rest were older mobile homes that the owner had brought in and owns. From my understanding this is a major violation of zoning and nobody from the city wanted to be mean to the elderly lady. I am not interested in moving forward with this deal for a number of reasons besides this major risk. Is it possible that when a future buyer purchases this property they could be asked to remove all of the mobile homes that are in the rv spaces? Mobile home and rv zoning is not interchangeable correct? Any feedback is appreciated as I want to have a thorough understanding of zoning as it relates to our business.

Thanks,
Nick

I would talk to zoning and explain the situation. Whatever they say get it in writing.

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OK thank you, will update after my call.

To me it sounds like a city that has the ability to be flexible with their zoning enforcement, but that will change as soon as a new owner comes in. Someone will file a complaint and then the City will have to enforce their ordinance. Just like @Celectric said, get it in writing from the City prior to buying. You are basically selling the City that if they permit the community as it currently sits, you will clean up the yards, mow on a more regular basis, etc. Find out what the City’s biggest headache with the community is and see if you can fix that. Zoning can be changed and city staff will support the change if you alleviate a headache for them in return.

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I spoke to the zoning department a minute ago and what I found was that the mobile homes are not permitted on those rv lots. I said " I said is it possible that a future buyer might have to remove all of the mobile homes which sit on RV lots"? She said yes. That settles that. So a new buyer would have to sell them on there vision of revamping the park and cleaning it up only if it can be rezoned as mobile home?

Just because something is zoned a certain way doesn’t mean it is not legal. Especially with older MHP’s there are many that are legal, but non-confirming to the zoning maps and ordinances. Have you checked when this zoning was implemented, and whether the MHP already had these mobile homes in there at that time? This might be a grandfathering conversation instead of a ordinance violation.

I mention all of this because the city would have never let 20+ homes in there with this zoning ordinance you mention, which is why those homes have probably been there a long time. Zoning department personnel dont know or dont want to confirm the non-conforming status of a property, so ensure you’re speaking with the right person. It’s also okay to ask the owner about the history too.

Check that out and keep us posted.

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Ah I see, thanks for the response @jhutson. So the key is to find out when the zoning was implemented and if the MH’s were in place before this, making them grandfathered. How does one get the history of zoning?

I’d speak with the owner when these mobile homes were moved into the park, the titles can confirm sometimes with a timestamp, and further verify it with some historic aerial images. Then have a chat with the city (remember, someone who knows what non-confirming is…) about the real status of this property as it related to the zoning ordinance.

Your position should be that it’s grandfathered, and if the city can provide more information about the implementation of this zoning - where they say it should be more RV intense - then that will help the conversation. If they say that the ordinance and zoning was implemented prior to the mobile homes being put in place then request a copy of that ordinance and zoning map from that time - sometimes these are even posted on the city’s website with the historical versions. It would be VERY suspicious they have not enforced any zoning ordinance laws or violations on the park in 40 years, and that’s the reason they should be confirming it’s non-conforming.

If you’re still getting “heeing and hawing” from the city then you need to decide if the deal price is good enough to engage and attorney to have a chat with the city’s attorney and clear the matter up, or if you need to drop it. In many cases a $500 conversation between them can clear things up, if it goes further it would need to be a damn good deal to keep going, or otherwise make the Seller bear the cost of that.

Good luck, let us know how it goes.

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Thanks @jhutson, I will meet with the seller to gather the information on the titles and get the ariels. Will keep updating.

If the city puts anything in writing, please let me know. I want to play the lottery that day.

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You are looking for what is called a prior, nonconforming use. Local jurisdictions all have these zoning rules. It allows for this type of situation. This is the most likely explanation of this park situation. Also just as likely is that you will probably have to conform to the current code as your housing ages out and moves out.

And don’t rely on something in writing from a planning department. It doesn’t carry the weight of law. You won’t get anything useful from the City in writing unless it is from the City Council.

Okay, how would you go about running a search to find out the zoning of the past?

Probably an open records request with the City. I assume the zoning folks are not being forthcoming with the information upon your request?

It is time consuming. Get the official code that should have all the notations of the years that it was changed at the very end. Unofficial versions sometimes do not have this information. Then ask the City Recorder or Clerk, whomever manages that information for all of the City Council Code changes for that code for those years and then you can piece together what the rules were in the past and when. Ideally the notations have a detailed reference to the ordinance number and date that makes this easier for the clerk to find.

It is all public record so it doesn’t take long in normal times to get this but may take a little longer today.

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You are wise to walk… but I would advise to run in the other direction. A new owner will find themselves in the middle of a legal maelstrom of problems. If they wanted to the City could just condemn it… and possibly shut down the whole park. Really. A prospective new owner should approach the city and have a meeting to discuss the options, and what the City wants done. They might be accomodating… emphasis upon “might” but they could also be terrible. All depends upon them.

I agree, thank you guys for all of the helpful response. I have decided to walk this deal. I explained the situation to a friend of mine who is a developer and he wants to buy it for himself and put Parc models on it . It is in an area where lots of family vacation. If he closes on it I will update you on the status of the project. As for me I am working on other deals and will update on where I am at soon. Thank you for all of the responses, the amount of knowledge that you guys put out on this forum for free is of tremendous value to a new guy like me and I am acting on it. We will talk again soon.