A proposed change in Richmond County law would make it easier for officials to condemn and demolish dilipidated, abandoned or otherwise ‘junk’ manufactured homes.
The proposed text amendment to the county’s nuisance ordinance will be the subject of a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Monday during the county commissioners’ monthly public meeting. The commissioners meet on the second floor of the Richmond County Administration Building at 125 S. Hancock St. in Rockingham.
The amendment would change the classification of a dilapidated, abandoned or burned-out manufactured, or mobile, home to personal property from its current designation of real property. The change would allow the county code enforcement division, under the supervision of county planner James Armstrong, to streamline the process of condemning, demolishing and removing homes in such disrepair.
Armstrong said the move would not only save the county time but also money. If approved, the process would treat “junk” mobile homes “like a junk car,” Armstrong said.
“If it’s personal property” instead of real property, Armstrong said, “then we can save some time and, more importantly, some taxpayers’ money” by adding mobile homes in such condition to the county’s list of enumerated nuisances that already include trash, junk and building parts.
“Then we abate that (property) with minimal cost,” Armstrong said.
Under existing law, abatement can take six months or more. First, a letter is sent. Then county officials schedule an administrative hearing. If the property owner doesn’t resolve the issue, the county commissioners are asked to sign an order of demolition and removal. The project then must be put to bid and a contracted must be selected before the issue could be resolved.
The proposed change, Armstrong said, would “hopefully shorten (the process) up as much as half, if not more.”
Armstrong said the county strongly prefers working with the property owner to find an amicable solution. Condemnation orders are sought only as a last resort.
“I’ll work with someone for a long time if they’re out there trying to clean it up themselves,” Armstrong said.
The county is not targeting the average mobile home, but eyeing instead those that are “clearly not livable and probably won’t be fixed.”
Dilapidated, abandoned and burned-out manufactured homes are a constant if not overwhelming problem in Richmond County. Approximately two months ago, Armstrong and others had five trailers removed from a private lot on Batton Road on the east side of Hamlet after a lengthy due process. Another one was cited along Billy Covington Road. Armstrong said it took “a couple thousand dollars just to get rid of it.”
In the short-term, such costs are born by fellow Richmond County taxpayers. Ultimately, the county seeks to be reimbursed by placing a lien on the property that prevents the property from being sold or otherwise transferring ownship until the county is repaid.
Armstrong said North Carolina code allows officials to view mobile homes both as real property and personal property.
“Normally, when they look at it as real property, it’s on a permanent foundation, it’s connected to water, sewer or well and septic … but most of these places that I’m talking about (they are) nothing more than parked on a piece of property.”
The overall goal behind the change, Armstrong said, is to address and protect the health and general welfare of Richmond County residents.
“That’s what the nuisance code is all about,” he said.