Charles County's top zoning official last week vowed to seek court orders to remove mobile homes violating county regulations, which are being toughened in an effort to crack down on substandard dwellings.
Current law, in effect for more than a decade, generally has been ignored, county officials acknowledge, and mobile homes in violation of health standards have been allowed to remain on scattered lots.
Planning and zoning director James E. Redmond said in an interview last week he plans a crackdown once the regulation is revised. There are 600 to 800 such units, most of them considered by county officials to be in violation of the law, outside of mobile homes parks.
The county commissioners are considering a ban on individual mobile homes on lots smaller than three acres and a new requirement that homes be hooked up to approved septic and water systems. A citizens group is proposing that the regulations be less stringent, however, citing the shortage of low-income housing in the largely rural county.
Redmond indicated he will seek legal action against owners of land where mobile homes are illegally situated. The upshot would be that units would have to be removed, he said. "The people who elect not to comply will find themselves held answerable," Redmond said. Enforcement "would involve a lot of staff and legal time, but it would make people stop and think before they bought a trailer and moved it in illegally."
While current law says it is illegal to live in mobile homes outside of mobile home parks, Redmond noted, the county has prosecuted only two cases in 10 years. In both cases, judges ordered property owners to haul away the mobile homes, Redmond said.
The proposed revision offers no provisions for families evicted from the sites. In formulating a county housing plan two years ago, the commissioners declined to make the county take responsibility for families displaced as a result of government actions. About 2 percent of the county's 75,000 residents live in mobile homes.
Under the revisions now being considered, the county's seven mobile home parks would be required to limit density to 10 units an acre, while density at new parks would be limited to seven units an acre.
Exceptions on the lot size requirement would be allowed in hardship cases, but the proposal does not spell out what constitutes hardship.
Members of the Trailer Ordinance Revision Committee, a housing rights coalition, said low-income families would suffer under the revisions and urged that the commissioners adopt measures that would provide health and safety enforcement without eliminating existing mobile homes.
"We can't put people out of their homes just because they can't meet what the county requires," said Doris Wheeler, a coalition member.