Owners of temporary housing get option to immediate removal

Residents with temporary housing units on their private lots could get a reprieve from a June 1 deadline to move the trailers if they act in the next few weeks.

The Minot City Council’s Public Works and Safety Committee voted Wednesday to recommend the council consider an extension for residents who submit information by June 16 regarding their home reconstruction progress and timeline for moving out of the units and back into their houses. The committee took the action after hearing from several homeowners who are slowly plugging away on do-it-yourself repairs that have drained them financially and physically.

“You guys need to leave us alone,” said Dave Cox, one of a group of neighbors who still are repairing their flooded homes in northeast Minot. “We are working on it. Leave us be.”

Homeowners spoke of the lack of help, shortage of money and problems that have delayed the work. One homeowner spoke of finally getting the plumber hired through Hope Village to come do repairs last week. The volunteer village wrapped up its mission and closed last fall.

If forced out of the temporary units purchased from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, homeowners presented a variety of unpleasant scenarios, including camping out in an unfinished house or erecting a tent in the yard. Some might move the unit out of town and have to commute to complete house repairs, delaying the work even longer, they said.

The owners stressed that they aren’t living in the units because they like doing so. One woman was emotional in telling how she and her husband are raising their three children in a two-bedroom trailer while working on their house in every spare minute not spent earning money to pay for the repairs.

Jolene Mosher said she and her husband, a veteran, both are disabled so have someone helping them with their house.

“It would be really nice if we had more time to do the things that we need to do,” she said. “We would appreciate it if you would please have some compassion.”

The committee heard from nine unit owners and a couple of other residents who also advocated on their behalf. Most owners who requested more time indicated they only needed extensions until fall. One owner said he could be done if he had just another three weeks.

“I am not in favor of giving a blanket extension to everybody who has a FEMA trailer,” council member Dave Lehner said. “There needs to be a plan in place, submitted by the homeowner who wants the extension.”

Lehner said there are instances of owners who have moved back into their houses but have kept the units in their yards as guest houses. He opposed a blanket extension for that reason.

“Sooner or later these people have to realize the flood is over. If you are in your house, that FEMA trailer needs to go,” he said.

“I don’t think our intent is to put anybody in hardship because we already have too much hardship from the flood,” council member Blake Krabseth said. He supported extensions for residents making serious attempts to get back into their permanent homes.

The recommendation approved by the committee would require homeowners to submit to the planning department a statement explaining their plans for repairing their houses and an estimated completion date. The properties would be subject to city inspection and verification.

“It has to be something that shows you are legitimately working on your property in hopes of getting back into it,” Lehner said.

The city has identified 30 units still on private lots outside of a manufactured home zone. Staff reported that they expect no more than half that number to request extensions because many units appear to be unskirted and ready to move.

The city originally had set an Oct. 1, 2013, deadline to remove the units. In September last year, an ad hoc committee approved 23 extensions to June 1. In October, the committee approved another 16 units and denied three.

Before hearing from unit owners, the public works committee had before it a proposed plan of action that called for turning the list of remaining units over to the city attorney’s office after June 1. Property owners would receive a notice that they are in violation of city zoning ordinance and would have five days to remove the units.

A violation that continues after the five days becomes a class B misdemeanor, subject to up to a $1,500 fine and 30 days in jail for each day that the violation continues. The city would hire a contractor to remove and impound units and assess the cost to the property.

If approved by the council Monday, the option to submit a plan by June 16 would spare unit owners the immediate threat of violation notices and fines. Failure to submit a plan, however, would trigger immediate enforcement on removal of a unit.