Update county code: Manufactured homes are dwellings

July 16, 2013

A proposal to build an RV camp­ground at Massey’s Landing has brought attention to a question that long ago should have been resolved in county code: What is a dwelling?

Here’s what county code has to say: “A building or portion thereof containing cooking and housekeeping facilities, designed or used exclusively for residential occupancy...”

Up to that point, the code and the diction­ary agree, but the sentence goes on: “but not including manufactured homes, hotels, motels, motor lodges, boarding or lodging houses, tourist courts or tourist homes.”

Most people would say that hotels, motels, boarding houses and most other items on that list are not the same as dwellings. The ques­tion is, why are manufactured homes on the same list as hotels and motels?

Many Sussex County residents live fulltime in manufactured homes, and they have been surprised – not to mention upset – to learn county code says their homes are not dwell­ings.

If they are not dwellings, then where do all these people dwell?

The code’s definition has been raised in the discussion of the proposed RV park at Massey’s Landing, when attorneys for the developers asserted people who live in manufactured homes are not entitled to the same protection as everyone else who owns a home, including a requirement for a 400-foot buffer between a dwelling and a campsite.

Other parts of the code are ambiguous as well, such as ordinance 2152, where the term dwelling is used to describe factory-built modular homes as well as manufactured homes. One of Sussex County’s leading manu­facturing companies builds modular, manufac­tured homes for placement in Sussex County.

If ever there was a good reason to consider these homes as hotels or boarding homes – and we hope there was a reason other than a plan to put as many manufactured homes as possible on the smallest available parcel – that reason clearly no longer applies.

People who live in manufactured home parks may have smaller lots than homeowners in other communities, but that shouldn’t mean they give up their rights as homeowners.

Everyone who lives fulltime in a residential structure deserves equal protection under county code no matter how the home was built.

  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered and written by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; and Nick Roth, sports editor.

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