Cape Girardeau City Council to discuss manufactured home request tonight

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Cape Girardeau City Council tonight will grapple with the issue of how to provide affordable housing when a property owner wants to replace an aging home in a well-established neighborhood.

The council will hold a public hearing on the request from Alfred Farrar to replace the home at 804 N. Fountain St., which he acquired from his parents in 1970, with a manufactured home that has a retail price of $59,900. The Cape Girardeau Planning & Zoning Commission unanimously voted against Farrar's request for a special-use permit to permanently install the home on the basement and foundation of the existing home. Under the city code, Farrar has the right to a public hearing before the council, which makes the final decision on all zoning issues.

At its core, the issue is about what the city building standards should allow, interim city manager Ken Eftink said. The code allows modular homes -- factory-prepared buildings on a wooden frame intended to be permanently moored to a foundation -- in residential neighborhoods. But it does not allow manufactured homes -- factory prepared buildings on a metal frame that can be fitted with an axle and moved -- in those same neighborhoods.

Farrar's plan is a novel one that the city code doesn't anticipate, Eftink said. If Farrar had chosen a modular home, he would not need the special-use permit he is seeking. But because of the metal frame on the bottom of the home, even though Farrar intends to moor the building permanently to the foundation, he must obtain permission.

"Of course there are some differences in building codes and standards that they are built to," Eftink said. "The planning commission has consistently turned down requests for manufactured homes to be allowed in residential areas."

Opening the door

While Farrar's plan may be an unusual case, the city doesn't want to open the door for single-wide mobile homes to be placed on slabs in residential areas, Eftink said. But it may be time to revise the code to allow well-built manufactured homes that become a permanent fixture on the real estate, he added.

Farrar could not be reached last week. But his contractor, Wes Johnston of De Soto, Mo., and the company that sold him the home, Clayton Homes Retail Center, intend to be on hand this evening to present arguments that the home will be an upgrade to the neighborhood.

The home currently on the lot is showing its age. The roof has obvious bulges and other aspects give it a generally worn impression. Repairs would be expensive, Johnston said, and the home would still have age issues.

The replacement would be a brightener for the neighborhood, Johnston said. "They are not little, thin-walled trailers with a smokestack," he said. "It is pretty darn good housing."

Clayton Homes sales manager Nick Pruitt said he hopes to show the council how the home will fit into the character of the neighborhood and blend in well.

"We are not bringing a house down, leaving it on wheels and walking away," he said. "Once we are done, we will seed and straw the lawn and put a front porch on and it is going to look like somebody built a new house."

Staff recommendation

In the packet prepared for council members, the planning staff recommends that Farrar's plan be approved with conditions that he meet all zoning rules and comply with any changes the council seeks in his project. In a letter to the council, Eftink reports that planning staff have received calls in opposition from neighbors but that none had sent any objections in writing.

Johnston said he hopes the council will approve the request. "I am more aggravated about this than he is," Johnston said of Farrar.

The contractor noted he will bring a crew nearly 100 miles to install the home and make little on the deal. But he said he's worried the council will have the same attitude as the planning and zoning commission.

"It is kind of a shame how a few people can change his whole dream without any consideration to him," Johnston said.


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Pertinent Addresses:

804 N. Fountain St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.-

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