Will mobile home parks be part of Destin's future? City council member addresses 30-year-old standards

Savannah Vasquez
Mobile homes have been a mainstay along this road that leads from Calhoun Avenue to the Destin Marina on the Bay.

When you think of Destin in 50 years do you see mobile home parks mixed in with residential neighborhoods? This is the question that Councilwoman Sandy Trammell posed to the city council in a recent meeting.

Currently the standards for mobile homes in Destin allow for trailers that were here prior to the incorporation of the city to remain in place, regardless of the age of the structure, as long as they can be repaired.

The Destin Land Development Code reads as follows:

At the time of passage of this provision, lawful use of land existed which would not be permitted by the regulations imposed by this section and where such use involves mobile homes, the use may be continued so long as it remains otherwise lawful.

Now, the city has been asked to reassess the standards as new mobile home parks have begun to crop up in Destin.

“The reason I brought it up is because we are looking at a long term vision,” said Trammell. “The current standards are 30 years old and were already in place when Destin became a city. We grandfathered the (existing) mobile homes in, as we could not make them non-conforming because they were here first. The question now is whether we will eventually sunset mobile homes out when they need to be replaced or continue with the current standards of allowing them to be replaced.”

Destin land development codes are reassessed every 10 years, but Trammell said this particular standard on mobile homes has been overlooked for three decades.

“We’re still hanging on to those standards,” she said. “It has automatically been accepted and has never been discussed. Destin has several areas that have mobile homes on them and they’ve been here forever. It’s just a matter of what we want to do with them.”

Trammell said that the idea to reassess the standards was first brought before the council by a local home owner who had built a new home beside a mobile home park.

“She was told by her realtor that those trailers were sun-setted out,” said Trammell. “We have such stringent building codes in Destin for homes now because of hurricanes, so the question was whether or not this is a hazard to the people living in the mobile homes and to the people around them.”

City Community Development Director Ken Gallander will take a major role in examining the current city code and making recommendations for the future way forward for mobile homes.

“My role will be to offer a variety of options,” he said. “There are a lot of legal components to this so it’s going to take quite a bit of research. We are going to reach out to our sister communities to see what they have done with their policies and regulatory codes on this kind of housing. It’s going to be another good discussion on where this community wants to go in the future.”

A former mobile home dweller herself, Trammel said she is not against mobile home residents or new mobile home rental businesses, she is simply looking for a fresh look on standards that have been collecting dust for decades.

“I’m not pushing one way or another,” she said. “Used to be, when you were renting a mobile home, the rent was cheaper so it was more affordable. Now, mobile homes are just as expensive as renting an apartment. The standard or thought process then was that it was more affordable housing, but now they are all the same price so that changes the variables.”

Trammell said that the average life expectancy of a mobile home is 50 years, and with new mobile homes going up, it’s time to decide whether or not they will have the same right to live out their life expectancy as those that have been traditionally grandfathered in.

“We are looking at what goals and standards we are wanting for the next 50 years, that was what we are looking at,” she said. “Whatever our building standards are for the future will reflect that.”