September 20, 2019

Rose City Council hears concerns, discusses plans for trailer park

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ROSE CITY — Residents’ concerns, the city council’s goals for the city and some possible alternative options were discussed July 30 at a special meeting scheduled for the purpose of giving residents the chance to speak out about the city trailer park.

The meeting was scheduled after the council voted July 16 to discontinue trailer sales and set an earlier deadline for all trailers to be out — Sept. 1, 2024. Four years ago, the council had set the deadline as March 2027, and trailers could be sold until March 2025. State law requires that the council give residents only six months’ notice to move out.

The council made the decision due to issues concerning residents not following the rules, and to move forward with its plans to use the property to better promote tourism, possibly turning it into an RV park.

“Why we’re here is to hear your concerns, tell you our side of the story, and if there is enough interest, maybe we can start looking into these alternatives, or coming up with something else, or what will work best for all of you,” Councilman Jeremy Card said at the special meeting. “That is hopefully something we have five years to work on.”

One of the top concerns brought up by residents was the ability to afford all costs associated with moving out, such as moving their trailer and buying property to put it on.

“It’s heartbreaking for the people who have to move their homes, even if it is five years,” said a resident who noted that she did not live in the trailer park herself. “I mean, let’s face it, five years is a blink of an eye when you’re on a fixed income trying to save money. ... Isn’t there another option? Can we try to help, as a community? Is there something we can do? I know it’s five years, so we can put together a game plan in five years maybe.”

The council was not opposed to looking into such options to make it easier on those who would be displaced.

“And we are more than open to try to put together a game plan,” Councilman Chase Wiltse said. “We don’t want to see anybody kicked out of their homes or anything like that. That’s not the goal of what we’re doing. I mean, we are willing to explore all possibilities on maybe installing another trailer park, and even helping get trailers over there. ... We can’t guarantee anything yet.”

A few of those present expressed interest in having their trailers moved if they were given assistance and a new location within the city. Property in the industrial park was mentioned as a possible new location. However, one woman said there was no way to move hers, as an addition had been built onto it before she had moved in. While the council noted during the meeting that it has the legal right to give a timeline for tenants to move out, as it is city property and the tenants rent the lot, the woman said she moved there in good faith, not expecting such a thing to happen.

“I bought in there with the good intentions of dying there,” the woman said. “And everything that I own and everything that I made went into that, and it’s my home.”

“What if you had a fire with no insurance?” she asked. “You would lose absolutely everything, you would be devastated. That’s what we feel like. And I’m following the rules. And when I bought it 10 years ago, it was never discussed. And I flat-out asked. And I was told, ‘Nah, the park’s never going anywhere.’”

When asked what would happen with any trailers left on the property by the deadline, Card said the city would probably have to pay to demolish them.

Councilwoman Jenny Bentley also noted that there were only about four residents who actually follow the rules. Currently there are 11 trailers left — soon to be 10, according to Card.

“You’re talking illegal sales of trailers, tons of stuff,” Bentley said.

Card and Mayor Dave Reasner added to this, saying tenants get months behind in rent and do things without notifying the council, such as building a porch.

Much of the discussion at the meeting also revolved around the feasibility of an RV park, with residents questioning several aspects of the idea. They suggested that an RV park might present issues similar to what the council already deals with for the trailer park, and that it would mean a new area for the city to maintain.

Some residents also took issue with the idea of the council putting tourists above the interest of residents. However, council members argued that the interests of the two groups are connected.

“The responsibility of the city council is to try to make sure that Rose City exists,” Reasner said. “It’s not going to because if we don’t get people to come here, if we don’t develop this city — they’re already closing down our schools. So nobody’s going to move families here because our school’s on the way out. If we don’t bring people in here to support our shops and our stores and our businesses, Rose City will die.”

“If there’s people staying here they’re spending money at the gas stations, the restaurants, the bars, the hotels,” Card said. “... Unless we have the jobs getting young families to move in with kids, we need the people coming up traveling, the tourism.”

Both Card and Wiltse said the plan was not necessarily about making money off the RVs. The city would be losing the rent money it currently makes through the trailer park, but Card said the loss would be worth it if it meant the overall improvement of Rose City’s economy.

“As the city, I guess my thought is we make maybe less money for a few years, but you know what, maybe that store across the street will open up because there’s a park here,” Card said. “So now this is a building, we get taxed on this. Two new business owners, another family. Maybe someone will open another shop downtown. It’s a long-term process that is not going to be fixed in a couple years and I can guarantee the city will lose that rent probably for a few years and will make less money. But to survive in the long run, we need to plan this out, say, ‘OK, we’re stepping back,’ and maybe this business will open, that business will open, we’ve got new people here.”

The council was asked if it had conducted a survey on whether there would even be campers interested in staying at an RV park in Rose City, to which Card answered it had. He said many places around the area are full, including the Rifle River Recreation Area, Parkview Acres and campsites in Oscoda County. Ninety percent of campers at Ambrose Lake expressed interest, according to Card, because they would be in walking distance to places like the bar, gas station and restaurants.

“We didn’t go into this blind, is what we’re trying to say,” Card said. “We took our time, we talked to people, we’ve hired an engineering firm to do studies. This is what we came up with.”

One resident questioned why the council couldn’t try having the remaining trailers and the RVs coincide. Card said he thought that might create issues such as people walking through backyards. The discussion turned to other subjects soon afterward, on both sides.

Many residents also said they would like the issue to go on a ballot for the people of Rose City to decide, rather than the council. But council members said the people had already been given numerous opportunities over time to add input, through advertised meetings, but no one ever came to them. They also said they had been elected to represent the people of Rose City.

“If you don’t like the direction, which not everybody’s going to like the direction that anybody takes on the council, you’ll have to vote in a new council and they can take a new direction,” Card said. “We gave you five years. Want to get rid of all of us? They can change the rule in two years. We went the direction of what we thought best, we had a study done, we did a plan, we’re following that and that’s the direction we’re heading, and not every resident of the city is going to be happy. ... If nobody likes our plan, get rid of us in two and start over.”

The meeting concluded with the council encouraging residents to attend its regular meetings and trailer park meetings, where they could ask questions and keep apprised of new developments.

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