City council passes moratorium prohibiting mobile homes
‘If nothing changes, nothing changes,’ says West Memphis mayor
By DON WILBURN
Mayor McClendon called a special City Council meeting this past Wednesday to address the confusion about the reasons and location a six month moratorium was requested by his administration to prohibit the installation of new mobil home trailers from Broadway to 25th street, 25th street to SL Henry and SL Henry to Walker until the Planning and Development Commission could research the impacts from the abundance of mobile homes the area.
“We have two new schools in the area, a $100 million investment as well as a housing development” the Mayor began, “the city has already bought a majority of vacant lots and demolished several trailers. Many city resources are dedicated to the maintenance and upkeep of the area. Yet it has still become known as ‘drug town’. I came up in that area. If this had happened five years ago I would take the blame but this area has been like that for decades and needs to be addressed. How can we clean up the city if we are not allowed to clean up the city?”
Several council members then voiced support of the moratorium including Croom. Dr. Bruce, Mondy and Harris said that there were other areas of the city that if one wanted bring in trailers, citing the areas “off of 55 and South 25th Street and the south loop.”
Others still supported immediate rezoning of the area to not allow trailers to be brought in even without a study being done. City Attorney Mike Stevenson quickly reminded the council again repeating his warning from the previous meeting suggesting that perhaps an initial three month moratorium was more prudent instead of the six months requested.
“I’ve seen Supreme Court cases about Fifth Amendment rights” he said, “taking someone’s property without just compensation. Looking at the zoning ordinance to make some changes as a result of the schools being there is a good reason. Looking at property values in the area and trying to solve the crime problem are all legitimate city interests.”
See COUNCIL, page A2
An abandoned trailer sits on Grove Street.
File photo COUNCIL
From page A1
Councilwoman Lorraine Mohammed, who has a tendency in meetings to slow things down by often being the voice of reason asked “What if someone wants to bring in a really nice trailer?” to which the Mayor responded “They are not installing new trailers in that area. They are bringing in the same rundown trailers that are already there. We have have homes that want to come into the area.”
Mohammed went on saying that it wasn’t just that area that needed attention and that “it sounds like the decision has already been made. We are just doing the study to justify it. It seems like we are picking on that area. It’s not just the trailer park, look at all the old liquor stores and car lots. If we are going to be fair and justified in what we are doing just say ‘we don’t want them there’ and that we want homes and not trailers.”
Dr. Gheric Bruce added to that saying “[those] car lots who sell cars that are not what they should be. Putting spare parts on the cars, making a killing and then a couple of months later the car breaks down. That whole area is in bad shape. It needs to be redefined.”
Further answering Mohammed’s concerns Councilwoman Helen Harris spoke passionately saying “It don’t matter if they brought a dream trailer up in here. If we don’t want no trailers there, it’s included. I was raised in that area and there were only trailers there all my life. And then it turned into a drug area. We don’t need no more trailers because the only thing moving there is low income people. We going to do the study to justify it but we just don’t want the trailers. This end of broadway, people are coming in to West Memphis. And you need to make it more attractive. Its depressing. And the people ain’t going to clean up anything.”
The council then proceeded to vote and pass the six month moratorium with Mohammed voting to “pass” saying she did not feel comfortable with it, councilman Holt voting “no” and councilwoman Hutchinson being absent. Tracy Catt added that he would like for the council to be updated monthly on any progress made by the study at every second council meeting to make certain things were “evolving as quickly as possible.”
Mayor McClendon ended the matter by echoing the teachings of famed civil rights leader Malcom X saying “If you only give the people dirty water to drink, they will drink it if they are thirsty enough. But if you offer them something good? A choice? An opportunity? If you give them clean water they will choose that. We all wish to see change. But like I’ve always said ‘if nothing changes, then nothing changes.’”
ABOVE: What a proposed housing development might look like. BELOW: A map of what a proposed housing development might look like.
Graphics courtesy of the City of West Memphis