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VOL. 128 | NO. 51 | Thursday, March 14, 2013

Land Use to Consider RV Park Conversion

By Bill Dries

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The company that owns the old Memphis Mobile City mobile home park wants to turn the site that flooded seven times in 10 years including floods in 2010 and 2011 into a resort for recreational vehicles with cabins and manufactured homes on adjoining acreage.

The 2011 flooding of the Mississippi River and its tributaries destroyed four mobile home parks in Frayser. One of the four wants to convert to a “resort” for recreational vehicles.

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

The Memphis Blues RV Resort and Village proposal by United Mobile Homes of Tennessee goes to the Shelby County Land Use Control Board for approval Thursday, March 14.

The part of the resort that would have spaces for more than 100 recreational vehicles would be the 22-acre old Memphis Mobile City site, which is in the Todd’s Creek floodplain. The mobile home park was built before zoning requirements barring such uses in flood plains. It was grandfathered in.

The floodplain exemption ended when the 2011 flooding of the Mississippi River and its Shelby County tributaries inundated the park, destroying the homes.

The “village” on the 33 acres of adjoining land to the west and south not in a floodplain would include 101 lots of manufactured homes with a recreation building and play areas and an area for boat and trailer storage as well as a camping store. That area is between Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church and School to the south and the site of Memphis Mobile City to the north.

The Memphis-Shelby County Office of Planning and Development is recommending approval of the planned development with conditions by the Land Use Control Board.

“While this is in the floodplain of Todd’s Creek, RVs have the ability to leave the site quickly in the event of a large flood emergency,” reads the OPD staff report to the Land Use Control Board. “The site plan also incorporates a berm in close proximity to Todd’s Creek to limit the effects of a flash flood event.”

The conversion to an RV park would be similar to what happened to another nearby mobile home park flooded in 2011.

The Shelby County Commission approved in June a planned development of the old Kingsway Green mobile home park on North Watkins Road west of Old Millington Road into the Lion’s Gate RV Park.

The 144-acre site is also in a floodplain and was grandfathered into later prohibitions on building in a floodplain. The owners originally applied for a variance that would have allowed them to reopen as a mobile home park. But the Board of Adjustment denied the variance.

The OPD staff recommended the conversion to an RV park for the same reasons given in the Memphis Blues application.

A group of residents at Memphis Mobile City displaced by a 2010 flood filed a federal lawsuit in May 2011 alleging United Mobile Homes of Tennessee failed to tell them of the flooding risks and took advantage of a language barrier by targeting Hispanic citizens specifically in the terms of installment plans to buy their homes. The suit was filed as the park was again flooding.

When the lawsuit was filed there were 29 plaintiffs. That dropped to 11 after a ruling that those plaintiffs who had installment contracts to buy their homes and the pads in the park they sat on with United Mobile Homes of Tennessee had to arbitrate their claims because the contracts they signed included provisions taking such disputes to arbitration for settlement as an alternative to litigation.

Of the 11 remaining plaintiffs, attorneys for United Mobile Homes of Tennessee claimed in a December 2012 motion to dismiss that none had signed installment contracts.

So, United Mobile Homes of Tennessee attorneys claim there are no alleged violations of the federal Fair Housing Act or the Tennessee Human Right Act.

The lawsuit is still pending in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee before visiting Judge Arthur J. Tarnow.

The plaintiffs have submitted a settlement demand to attorneys for United Mobile Homes of Tennessee. It has until March 15 to respond with a status conference before Tarnow scheduled for April 5.

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