Highlands lot owner requests change in guidelines
November 15, 2008
Olivia Fiamengo and Margaret Ruckman both found out that putting a manufactured home where others don’t exist can take a battle.
Fiamengo hoped to stay in the community where she and her former husband built their home about 15 years ago, but found today’s construction prices a little high to build a home on her lot across from the fire station in the Virginia City Highlands.
So she looked into the possibility of a manufactured home, even though the Virginia City Highlands Property Owners Association’s architectural guidelines requiring homes to be “substantially built on site.”
Fiamengo said she researched the community’s covenants, conditions and restrictions and found no specific language outlawing manufactured homes. The only thing preventing a placing a manufactured home on her lot, she said, was the architectural guidelines of the association. In every other respect, the manufactured home can be built to look like the stick-built homes around it.
According to a Senate Bill 323, passed by the state Legislature in 1999, communities cannot ban manufactured homes unless regulations approved before the bill took effect in 2000 banned their use. It also says manufactured homes must be allowed as long as the home is similar in appearance, siding and roofing, is permanently affixed and converted to real property, is less than five years old and has at least 1,200 square feet of living space.
Fiamengo found a manufactured home plan that looked very similar to some of the on-site homes already in the rural community, with log siding, a garage and the appropriate roof, and asked the property owners association to consider revising its architectural guidelines.
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This week, the board declined to revise those guidelines after more than 20 residents showed up at a meeting to oppose any changes.
Ruckman said she and her husband, Jack, tried to put a top-of-the-line triple-wide manufactured home on a lot they owned on Goni Road, when a few neighbors complained and forced them to get permit after permit, put a new roof on the home, adding up to about $30,000, only to be given more and more requirements by the city to the point where they gave up and moved their home to Silver Springs.
“It cost us thousands of dollars,” she said, adding that she was told she could place her home on the lot so long as she met the requirements of the law.
“Then someone posted a stop-work order because the pitch of the roof didn’t match the pitch of the neighbor’s roofs,” she said.
After a new roof was put on, officials required a landscaping plan that was approved by the neighbors, she said. “Then they started talking about the foundation, and I knew there was no way we were going to get our home up there.
Bob Cooper, general manager of Country Homes in Carson City, said the intent of the law was not to allow discrimination against manufactured houses in typical site-built areas, but many places find a way around it.
Now, instead of saying no manufactured housing, developers put in the bylaws things like the number of square feet, size of roof or other things that are difficult for manufactured homes to have.
“Developers can be creative,” he said. “That’s what developers of golf course communities do. If I was in a golf course community, I don’t care how nice it looks, I don’t want it next to mine.”
But, he said, many people cannot afford on-site constructed homes, and the purpose of the law was to allow moderate-income residents to be able to afford to put homes on their lots that they could afford.
He said a home that cost about $180 per square foot as stick-built home would cost about $77 per square foot if it were a manufactured home. Often, he said, manufactured homes are built as well if not better than stick-built homes.
Bobbi Clements, a sales agent at Fleetwood Homes in Mound House, blames poor marketing for the public’s perception of manufactured housing, which she said can be made with practically any amenity the homeowner wants.
“Companies need to market their products the way they are now, not what they were 20 years ago,” she said. “It has hurt the industry, not keeping up with educating the public.”
But residents of the Virginia City Highlands were not convinced.
Jim Watson, a Realtor, said allowing manufactured homes would hurt existing property owners.
“Every home up here will depreciate the first time you bring one up here,” he said. “The board is taking risk even ruling on it. I don’t want my value going down any more than it already has.”
Fiamengo said that although she believed she was correct, she didn’t plan on taking action right away.
“To try and make something happen, someone would have to contest the interpretation of the bylaws,” she said. “The bylaws aren’t the problem, it’s the guidelines.”
Fiamengo said the guidelines are just guidelines, and rejection of manufactured homes is not explicit there, either, just that a home be substantially built on site.
“If anyone is going to do it, it is going to take a battle,” she said. “I don’t think they can not allow it.”
– Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-7351.