Montrose Targets Opportunity Sites, Safety

By Caitlin Switzer

MONTROSE—To many, they represent affordable housing and the possibility of independent living, even on the tightest of budgets. To others, they are eyesores, car- rying the possibility of crime, vermin and diminished property values. Like them or not, however, mobile home parks are a familiar part of the landscape of America and of Colorado’s Western Slope.

According to Wikipedia, mobile homes originally derived from the travel trailer, and were marketed in the early days to those whose lifestyles demanded mobility. During World War II, the first true house trailer was developed for government use in response to the need for temporary housing to serve wartime workers in de- fense plants, mines and other locations, notes John Grissim, author of “The Com- plete Buyer’s Guide to Manufactured Homes and Land.”

Grissim points out that the United States government eventually purchased 35,000 of these units—which measured 22’ long and 18’ wide—and established 8,500 trail- er parks to site them. Later, in the 1950’s, mobile homes were increasingly marketed to buyers who intended to place them in one location for the long term. Today, there are more than 38,000 trailer parks in the United States.

Here in Montrose, mobile home parks are also a fact of life, occupying 143 acres

Two abandoned mobile homes deteriorate in the park on South San Juan Ave. in Montrose.

within the City limits, according to City GIS Analyst Caitlin Bernier. Like other neighborhoods, the parks range from new and well-kept to older and deteriorated. Unlike many site-built homes, however, the life span of a mobile home unit is brief, and in older units, safety concerns can arise. According to Wikipedia, winds of 70 miles per hour can destroy a mobile home in a matter of minutes.

“We do have a code,” said Montrose Community Development Director Kerwin Jensen. “We’re not real aggressive about it. But in some cases, mobile homes have no heat—which becomes a concern for the department of health. And in the case of natural event like a fire or flood, any area with a bunch of clutter can go up in flames.

“In our comprehensive plan, we have identified certain areas that we call oppor- tunity areas, where we could eventually go in and do some redevelopment,” Jensen said.

Those areas include trailer parks near the Montrose Act building and behind Taco John’s, as well as those further south off of San Juan Avenue, encircling a new hous- ing development, and off of West Main and Marine Road. Also designated as “opportunity areas” are the site of the cur- rent Star Drive-Inn Theatre (if and when current use ceases) and the unused Union Pacific Railroad Spur, Jensen noted.

“Aside from our opportunity sites, we are not targeting mobile home parks,” he said. “A mobile home park is probably not the highest and best use of the land, but any time you do go in and improve substand- ard housing areas, you are displacing poor people.”

Mobile home Parks within Montrose city limits include Green Acres, Mountain Vil- lage, Ikie’s, West Mina, Paradise Village, Cottonwood, Bluff Harbor Leisure Port, Mountain View, Community and Cimar- ron Creek, according to Bernier.

One instance in which the City of Mont- rose worked to clean up a substandard mobile home park took place several years ago, in a park located East of town near the entrance to the Black Canyon, Jensen said.

“The park had a failing lagoon system,” he said, “and any time that you want to access city services, the development can be annexed. So we went in, and did a cleanup. We took out the dumpsters, and the police department worked with us on the nuisance and abatement process— places like that begin to grow crime. If you clean up the broken windows, junk cars, and trash, you decrease the crime rate and build pride in ownership.”

In addition to looking at opportunity sites, the City of Montrose will be target- ing and sending abatement notices to the owners of abandoned structures for the first time, and continuing to target the spread of graffiti.

“We give the property owners two weeks to clean up graffiti,” Jensen said. “We want to stop it before it spreads, and we want to fight the battle until the end.”

The City’s collaboration with San Juan Construction to improve the blighted area that the company recently purchased adja- cent to its present location at North Third and Cascade also continues, Jensen said.

“San Juan Construction wants to expand, so the old units there will be gone by next year,” he said. “But they have set a real example as responsible property owners– some owners actually go in, clean up, and find homes for the tenants who have been displaced.”