3-2 vote denies mobile homes in Bailey Heights

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By Carolyn Roy

carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

About the only controversy at the City Council meeting Monday evening was between District 3 Councilperson Sylvia Morrow and Harold Bayonne, chair of the Citizens for Democratic Action. Morrow termed “political” efforts by Bayonne to overturn a recent decision by the City Planning and Zoning Commission that would have allowed Reginald Turner to place two mobile homes on lots on Anita Street in Bailey Heights. The lots are in Morrow’s district. Mayor Lee Posey intervened to maintain order before the exchanges between Bayonne and Morrow got out of hand. By a vote of 3-2, the City Council went with Bayonne’s appeal that will stop Turner from putting the two new mobile homes, rental units, on lots at 811 and 813 Anita St. Councilman-at-Large Don Mims and Councilmen Lawrence Batiste and Eddie Harrington voted for the appeal and Morrow and Dale Nielsen voted no.

Bayonne does not live on Anita Street but was representing those who do, including his mother. He had earlier presented a petition with eight names, with the potential to add more, opposing the mobile home placement. He said the area on Anita Street, between Allen and Dean streets, was well-kept, not run down and had no trash. He said the residents in that area “play by the rules and have no warrants” and cared for their properties. “They have done a good job in the midst of chaos. They have kept it nice,” Bayonne said. His reference was to urban blight that has affected the area known as Bailey Heights. It is located in West Natchitoches in a section bordered by Texas Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Among the residents on Anita Street opposing the mobile home placement who spoke at the meeting were Dorothy Claiborne, Johnny Gay and Eunice Jewett. There were a few others who did not speak. Turner said he owned the property where he wanted to locate the mobile homes. His grandfather moved there in 1950. His interest was in upgrading the area. “I know all these people, I grew up there,” Turner said. The two mobile homes are new, would have been skirted, have had shingled roofs and paved driveways. He said they would beautify the neighborhood. Morrow said she had seen the mobile homes that were nice and new and believed they would upgrade the area. She trusted Turner to have good tenants. She said the fact that Bayonne was president of Citizens for Democratic Action didn’t frighten her. “I have to support Mr. Turner tonight.” Nielsen voted against the appeal because of his prior time as a member of the planning and zoning commission that approved the application. Nielson said that as a past member, he and others had passed ordinances to strengthen the code for mobile homes by requiring new home placement only. “I have a hard time voting against it when all the requirements have been met.” Turner had asked for no variances.

Mims said that he and his family lived in a mobile home for six to seven years and they could provide opportunities for young families in certain instances. But over time they deteriorated and tended to remain in place. ”They don’t go away.” Harrington’s concern was placement of rental units in an area dominated by homeowners. He said the fact that homeowners were there to object carried weight with him. He suggested there could be ways to revitalize the area other than by putting mobile homes there. In particular, he named the efforts of Dr. Rand Metoyer who has restored several residences on Carver and Jean Marie streets. Batiste agreed with Harrington and Mims in upholding the appeal. “I’ve already talked to these people. I was raised there. Let’s try to build it up.” When the vote was over, Posey said it made a difference when people showed up to give their opinions. “It can change my mind.” Posey agreed with several there who said the City could do more to assist with revitalization. He said the City had tagged so many abandoned cars that the person removing them could take no more. He said the City could be more aggressive in getting property owners to mow their grass. After the vote, Director of Planning and Zoning Juanita Fowler asked the council, “Where do we go from here with mobile home placement?” Fowler said the council must consider having the planning commission amend the ordinance that it had worked on extensively to address mobile home placement. According to Fowler, the mobile home industry has upped its standards and the units are comparable to stick-built homes.

“I’m not saying either way, but they represent a large population. Mobile homes are considered single-family homes. They just are,” Fowler said.