Mobile Homes

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 18, 2011

Three years later, mobile homes will see new rules

By Billy Davis

Regulations for manufactured homes in unincorporated Panola County got final approval Monday from the Board of Supervisors, wrapping up a topic now three years old.  

Supervisors unanimously accepted tougher rules, without comment, when county building inspector Michael Purdy brought the matter before the board.  

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The new regulations require that water and sewer connections, and electrical connections, follow county building codes.

Other requirements are:

•The manufactured home must be set on a pier foundation

•A landing must be built, at all entrances, with minimum dimensions of three feet by three feet.

•The manufactured home, if moved on a public road, must be transported and installed by a transporter licensed by the State Fire Marshal. The owner of the home can move it on private property without a license.

•Manufactured homes cannot be used for storage.

The new regulations kick in May 1, a date suggested by Board of Supervisors president Gary Thompson.

It was learned Monday that the county dropped one controversial requirement: a 20-year maximum age on newly permitted manufactured homes.

Purdy noted at the county meeting that the 20-year rule had been dropped, citing a state statute.

The state statute, 17-1-39, states that counties and municipalities can regulate the appearance of manufactured homes but cannot use the rules to prohibit them.

Purdy said Batesville attorney Colmon Mitchell researched the rule and advised that the state law forbids Panola County from banning a mobile home due to age.

Mitchell serves as counsel for the county land commission.

The attorney told The Panolian he informed the land commission about the state law in a formal letter to the 10-member county board.

“It raised a red flag,” Mitchell said of the state statute, “and my intention was to caution them about how far they could go in regulating mobile homes.”

The age restriction was easily the most controversial among a list of proposed rules, but it survived hours of debate as late as last month, when supervisors agreed to include it.

Inspections of manufactured homes will help catch problems that can’t always be traced to the age of the home, Thompson said after the meeting.

“Some (mobile homes) that are 10 years old, they’re not fit to live in. It’s according to how they’re kept up,” he said.

The Monday vote in Batesville wrapped up three years of debate and discussion, mostly among members of the Panola County Land Development Commission, though supervisors were always listening nearby.    

The idea of tougher rules, deemed a controversial one from the get-go, nonetheless gained momentum after five Panola Countians died in mobile homes in 2007.

The fire deaths spurred late supervisor Robert Avant to request in June 2008 that the land commission create rules to address dilapidated manufactured homes. The commission, at the time, was already discussing implementing residential building codes.

The topic gained more momentum in April 2010, when a dilapidated mobile home was moved to a lot on Wells Street Extended, just outside Courtland’s corporate limits.

The trailer’s appearance — twisted siding, broken windows, a front door tied with rope — created uproar among neighbors, who took their protests to the District 3 supervisor, Thompson.

The mobile home was later moved — but it had made a lasting impact.  

“That mobile home was something that made the picture that much clearer,” Thompson said at the time.

Purdy said Chad Meek, a second county building inspector, will oversee most inspections of newly permitted manufactured homes.

The county permit office will drop its $25 permit fee in favor of a permit/inspection fee. The new fees start at $150 for $600 square feet to $400 for 3,200 square feet.

Supervisors also accepted the new permit and inspection fees at their Monday meeting.