by Geoff Fox
Hancock town officials are weighing their options to change or fully enforce a town ordinance regarding mobile homes and vehicles within their town limits. A special town meeting on the subject was held this Monday, August 15.
Councilman Roland Lanehart, Jr. said he talked to a number of residence and businesses and came up with a couple ideas on how to improve the ordinance, which restricts where and how mobile units can be located.
His first proposal was that any business owner paying property tax and utilities should be able to use a shed or trailer as long as they own that shed or trailer and are paying taxes on the property.
In the case of food trucks, pop up shops, or food trailers, those business operators would also need to get a permit from the town for no more than three consecutive days and be moved after those three days, he proposed.
In the event of a holiday weekend, such as Memorial Day Weekend, Lanehart said the permit would be extended to a fourth day.
Vendor permits run $50 a day, he added.
Town Attorney Ed Kuczynski said it would be hard to enforce this. He said someone could have their permit pulled if they don’t pay their taxes or bills.
Town Manager Mike Faith noted Lanehart’s ideas would mean the owner would be in good standing.
Lanehart used the example of Park N Dine and it being reopened as a restaurant, since it is an established restaurant. If the owner wanted to use a shed to cook and serve out of, Lanehart said he’d have no issue with it since town bills and taxes are being paid for through the restaurant.
Kuczynski said he understood Lanehart’s rationale, but didn’t know if the Health Department would allow something like that.
According to the town’s ordinance, permits can be obtained for temporary structures like a storage or construction building, or a temporary concession stand. Kuczynski said that could arguably be a food truck.
Kuczynski noted the town does not have anything regulating food trucks as they typically are on the street.
This could allow for temporary permits and be applied for at least 14 days in advance. Temporary, as defined by the ordinance, is up to 90 days.
Kuczynski told town officials the ordinance doesn’t allow for mobile homes or trailers to be used for residences or other daily uses, but there are exceptions.
Kuczynski gave the example of someone doing renovations to their house; they can get a permit to have a storage container.
All temporary-use permits and exceptions can be viewed on the town’s website.
Kuczynski noted that if someone owned an RV, they could store the vehicle on their property so long as it isn’ t occupied while in storage.
Kuczynski said officials would have to look at the town’s zoning as well.
He said the ordinance itself is one of the “stingiest” ordinances he’s seen.
There’s also the possibility the town could revert the ordinance and start over, but town officials didn’t make any movements on changing or repealing the ordinance on Monday.
While advertised as a public meeting where residence could voice their ideas and discuss the ordinance, out of the six people in attendance, only one signed up to speak.
April Davis, who spoke on the subject during the town’s last special meeting on July 28, addressed town officials during this meeting.
Davis told town officials she might be wasting her time as they had already decided whom they would pick and choose to be allowed to operate.
Davis said while she understands restrictions about using temporary buildings or RVs as dwellings, she doesn’t agree with businesses not being allowed to conduct business out of them. A few have been doing so for a number of years, she noted.
“Hopefully this is a wakeup call that someone in charge should know all of our rules and enforce them in a timely manner so we don’t end up in another situation like this,” she said.
With those businesses established here and built a clientele, Davis said since they didn’t leave, that loyalty should be considered with the ordinance and zoning amended.
She still wasn’t sure why town officials are “closed-minded” on food trucks and the only town in the county making it hard for them to be here.
One food truck owner attempted to purchase a building in town but it didn’t work out, so they turned to the food truck, Davis said.
With the condition of the buildings in town, Davis said town officials should focus getting the owners of the buildings to higher standards to keep the town from looking like “an abandoned ghost town.”