A citizen task force recommended this week that Montgomery County legalize about 300 mobile homes now parked unlawfully and create a mobile home zoning category for areas that want them.
The report, most of which was supported by County Executive James P. Gleason, was presented after two years of study and public hearings conducted by the 10-member task force.
Mobile homes "provide a needed source of additional low - and moderate-cost housing" in Montgomery County, where the average house costs $70,000 and moderately priced homes are scare, said Robert A. Passmore, assistant chief administrative officer for Gleason.
Residents of the illegal parks cannot receive services that other county residents get.
"They do not have electricity; they do not have water. The power company will not sign them on as customers," said Peg McRory, housing consultant for the council, who favors the legalization of the mobile home sites. "There are no standards and they're not inspected."
"As long as the homes are not legalized, people will die in them (from accidents). They have boot-legged electricity," said Carolyn Snowden, a task force member and vice president of the Sandy. Spring Civic Association. She added that many of the mobile homes are old, and have old, defective cooking stoves that can cause fires. If the homes were legal, they would have to meet county safety standards, she said.
Nearly 700 mobile homes are now located in five legal parks near Route 355 in the Germantown area, according to Elizabeth Wanner, a resident of a mobile home and a member of the task force. She added that the homes in the parks are usually filled.
Attempts have been made to build more trailer parks, said Wanner, adding that communicty residents often object because "they say it will change the character of the neighborhood."
The task force said its studies showed that residents of communities where the illegally parked mobile homes are located do not object to having the homes rmain there. Citizens of Jonesville and Jerusalem in the western part of the upper county and a section of Sandy Spring in the eastern part of the upper county are ready to apply for the mobile home zoning if and when the council creates it, said Fred Sterns, a task force member and a past president of the Western Upper Montgomery County Civic Association.
"There are already a substantial number of illegal mobile homes in those areas, and people obviously want the homes," said Wanner.
Task force members said their recommendations are aimed at providing an option for the 20 rural villages that could apply for mobile home zoning if their recommendation is followed. Under the legislation recommended by the task force, the mobile home would not be available to any other areas of the county.
"The mobile home is a basic means of providing low-cost housing," Council Member William Colman told task force members at the meeting. "With the evolution of the industry so that the homes resemble pre-fab and modular housing it's more appropriate. I think it's time Montgomery County came out of the closet on mobile homes."
Other council members said they believed that mobile homes are important elements in low-cost housing, but said they were not sure they could agree with the task force recommendations. The council will decide in May if they will introduce mobile home legislation.