NORCO — The City Council gave unanimous approval Wednesday night to an ordinance allowing Norco homeowners to put mobile homes in their backyards, but only to house elderly relatives needing their care.
The ordinance, which will come back to the council for a final vote in two weeks, would allow a resident to house two relatives, each at least 62 years of age, in a mobile home behind his own home.
Norco's strict zoning laws generally prohibit mobile homes, and allow only one residence on each lot, but a strong lobbying campaign by residents--many of whom have openly ignored the zoning restrictions in order to house their elderly parents and grandparents--led to the creation of the new exception.
State rules require cities to allow "granny flats" within existing homes, and to let homeowners expand their homes by 10% to accommodate their elderly relatives.
By allowing residents to choose to use mobile homes instead, supporters of the Norco ordinance argued, elderly citizens could have more privacy, and homeowners could save the money they would have spent on expanding or renovating their homes.
Reasons for Change
Such an option is particularly important in Norco, they said, because the city's minimum lot-size requirements make home ownership expensive and maintenance difficult, because of the scarcity of convalescent homes and senior citizens' apartments in the area, and because Norco does not allow multiple-unit housing developments, which could accommodate some elderly residents.
Under the new ordinance, homeowners will have to apply annually to the Norco Planning Commission for permits allowing the use of a mobile home and "demonstrate the need for the family members' care." They will also have to pay a $250 annual fee.
Residents testifying in support of the ordinance Wednesday persuaded the council to allow mobile homes built before 1971, but only if homeowners can obtain certification from a state inspector that they meet health and safety requirements.
The council would not, however, allow elderly relatives to live in large travel trailers, as requested by Jane Wilson, a Norco resident who said she could not fit a mobile home past her 8-foot-wide driveway.
Travel trailers "are not unsafe; they're not unsanitary," Wilson told the council, claiming that "park-model travel trailers" are allowed in most mobile home parks, including one in Norco.
Mayor Richard MacGregor said, however, that Norco needs to draw a clear line to prevent abuse of the new ordinance. "If we allow the alternative of travel trailers, it's going to become more and more difficult" to determine if a unit is safe and appropriate, he said.