One year later, manufactured home residents still out of home

Margaret and Jack Ruckman discuss problems they've had trying to occupy their manufactured home off Goni Road. City officals won't let the couple move into their home because the roof isn't steep enough to meet city code. Photo by Cathleen Allison

Margaret and Jack Ruckman discuss problems they've had trying to occupy their manufactured home off Goni Road. City officals won't let the couple move into their home because the roof isn't steep enough to meet city code. Photo by Cathleen Allison

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Jack and Margaret Ruckman were just looking for a place to retire in the home of their dreams.

In 2000, they had no inkling their choice of a manufactured home in a Carson City neighborhood without such homes would stir controversy and leave them renting an apartment for more than a year.

Now they simply call their unfinished Goni Road home "the property."

In January 2001, the city stopped work on the installation of the home, in part because the roof wasn't steep enough. Since then, the Ruckmans have fought with city officials and neighbors over what can be done to allow them to move into the home.

"The biggest mistake of our lives was stopping in Carson City," Jack, 64, said. "We don't need this in our lives right now."

They live in a two-bedroom condominium off Highway 50 East with their daughter and two grandchildren. They thought the living arrangement would be temporary; after all, their four bedroom home would offer a room for everyone.

More than $10,000 in rent and storage costs and thousands in attorney fees later, the longtime homeowners find themselves still without a permanent place to call home.

"How we're still speaking to each other is a miracle," Margaret, 65, said.

Formerly of Compton, Calif., the Ruckmans stumbled across Carson City on their way to look at potential retirement homes in Minden and Gardnerville.

"I fell in love with Carson City; I thought it was beautiful," Margaret said.

Nothing in Douglas County suited them, so they turned around and started looking in the capital city. They found a suitable home off Goni Road and made plans to purchase it.

The quiet neighborhood with a view of the mountains was perfect. However, the deal fell through, and the Ruckmans started looking again. In the meantime, they found a manufactured home dealer with a home they liked better than traditional homes they had viewed.

With four bedrooms, an open kitchen and 2,300 square feet, Margaret said they realized they could get more home for the money by buying the manufactured home.

It has a deck, fireplace, extra storage space, three bathrooms and green carpet laying in rolls in the living room waiting to be installed.

Jack said they checked with city officials to see if there were any minimum requirements for bringing a manufactured home into a traditional neighborhood. More than once, he said, he was told no.

He said his real-estate agent couldn't find any restrictions, so he and his wife purchased a lot at 5177 Goni Road and made plans for their home to be moved from Oregon to Carson City.

What the Ruckmans didn't know is they were to be the first local test of a controversial law the Nevada Legislature passed in 1999. Senate Bill 323 paved the way for manufactured homes to be placed in any area zoned single-family residential -- in other words, in almost any subdivision in Carson City. The law set out vague guidelines to be followed statewide, leaving more specific details, such as roof slope, to city and county governments.

The Ruckmans hired a contractor to prepare the site and secure the necessary permits. The contractor, who lacked a Carson City business license, did the paperwork, which included a provision that the roof would need to rise at a steeper pitch.

However, when it came time to sign the permit, the contractor wasn't allowed to do it, so Jack signed it thinking everything was fine.

Jack confesses the contractor made a mistake. Having never seen the home, the contractor shouldn't have agreed to any minimum requirements, especially after the Ruckmans had been assured there were no minimum standards, Jack said.

"How could we possibly know?" Jack said. "If I had the knowledge, I wouldn't have signed it. They had a full technical manufacturer's report and they still screwed up. Do they expect me or the planner to know these things?

"It's a gleaming instance of legal discrimination."

City officials began looking into the home after neighbors in the area complained of its arrival Jan. 5, 2001. At first incensed about its being allowed in the neighborhood, the Ruckmans' neighbors soon focused on the fact that the house didn't meet the specifications detailed in its permit.

The Ruckmans worked with city officials on a solution. A plan for landscaping to hide the roof was ultimately turned down, and the Carson City Planning Commission upheld a decision that the Ruckmans' roof needs to be steeper.

"It's been a circus -- the bashing of the Ruckmans," Margaret said.

From city officials' point of view the matter is simple: there are certain standards for manufactured homes, and the Ruckmans' home doesn't meet those standards. While Jack insists the city can change the permit, Walt Sullivan, community development director, said that isn't something the city can do.

"I can feel some sympathy for the Ruckmans, and I wish things had gone differently," Sullivan said. "I wish we'd gotten to where we are now earlier with the agreements on how to proceed. The alternative is to do what the attorney and staff worked out, which is to amend the roof and gutters, and then that will meet the roof pitch, and we're in for final inspection."

The Ruckmans hired an engineer to design a new roof for the home, but the manufactured home company will drop the home warranty if the roof is replaced, Jack said. Plus, the Ruckmans said, they can't afford the $30,000 replacement .

Now, "we're treading water," Jack said. Even though city officials agreed to the roof replacement plan, the Ruckmans said they've had enough. They plan on selling their lot and moving their home -- perhaps to Washoe County or maybe back to California.

"We've had people drive up here and tell us they couldn't find our house," Margaret said. "I guess they were looking for the little mobile home. We'll move wherever we can. I still think Carson City is a beautiful city. The majority of people are wonderful, but beauty is only skin deep."


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