City Inspector Blake Steiner said Tuesday at the city council meeting that his office has identified 79 blighted structures, and presented a map of them. He said eight have been dealt with through condemnation or demolition. He said he would be recommending two more such mitigations at the next meeting.
“It has always been the goal of the mayor and his administration to promote growth in Franklin,” Steiner said. “I’ve met with real estate agents in Franklin and they all agree that there is a demand for empty lots available for construction. By continuing to abolish blighted, abandoned and dilapidated structures, we are able to create an avenue to meet this need.”
Steiner said protecting property values of citizens comes through zoning, and he said he is readying an update to the city’s zoning ordinance sometime this summer.
Also, managing blighted housing helps property values. He said there are 18 blighted mobile homes in the city “and that number seems to be growing each month. These have proven to be a difficult problem to mitigate. In most cases the owner of the mobile home and the owner of the property are two different people.”
He said he has learned that these older mobile homes are very inexpensive, as little as $200, and often are purchased by someone who lives in it for a few years until it simply isn’t livable anymore, and it is abandoned on the property. “They purchase another blighted mobile home and repeat the process,” Steiner said. “In the last six months I’ve had four instances of this reported to me.”
He said the land owner has no legal rights to the structure, making removal difficult.
Steiner said a new ordinance might be in order. He said many municipalities have placed age restrictions on mobile homes brought into the city. It would apply to new move-ins only, not those currently within the city at the time the ordinance would be enacted.
Councilman Eugene Foulcard immediately urged Steiner that “we do want to look at something that is also fair and is not discriminatory in nature where we are capricious in how we look at it. I would like our city attorney to look at how we need to come up with an ordinance so that it’s fair and we’re not playing ‘gotcha.’ I know that you’ve never done that.”
The town of Erath has a limit of 10 years of age on mobile homes, Abbeville has a limit of 20 years, Steiner gave as examples.
“They have a method where if you want to move a mobile home in that’s older than that it can be qualified by the zoning board of adjustments,” he said. “Instead of just banning all mobile homes we can have that avenue where you may have an older mobile home, but it can still be qualified and deemed to be suitable housing…nobody’s going to kick you out of your mobile home.”
He added that the more and more municipalities in the area regulate such structures “the more attractive Franklin is going to be for some of these blighted properties to make their way down. The last thing we want to do is become a haven for blighted properties.”
Councilman Joe Garrison said he thought the city had an ordinance in place.
Steiner said the city does not, but there is a state law that to move a mobile home into St. Mary Parish it must be a Zone 3 structure, built to withstand a certain wind code.
The council will consider drafting the suggested ordinance.