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City council hears about mobile home inequity

by Connor Raborn reporter@hammondstar.com

A Lafayette man who owns property in Hammond aired his grievances to the Hammond City Council Tuesday about the council's denying his request to install a mobile home but letting another person have a permit for a nearby property.

Vincent Starwood said he approached the council last spring about placing a mobile home on his property at Mississippi and Natchez streets to provide a residence for his cousin. After the permit was denied in accordance with the city's 1999 master plan's policies, Starwood built on the property a house and duplex to the tune of $150,000.

Since then another resident has put a mobile home as close as 300 feet from where he wanted to put a trailer, he said. As a registered appraiser, Starwood is requesting the city lay water lines because he cannot find the ones that are supposed to be on that property.

Mayor Pete Panepinto said he put water and sewer Superintendent Guy Palermo in touch with Starwood to locate the water lines.

"He said he would give me a bid. I don't want a bid; I don't want to spend a dollar," Starwood said at Tuesday's council meeting during public hearing.

"I'm not here to sue you or anything. I just asked a question," he said. "After $150,000 of my hard-earned money, you allowed someone else to put a mobile home 300 feet from where I asked to put one on the exact same street. I don't think it's fair."

"When I purchased the property it had a mobile home on it," he continued. "There are around 87 mobile homes in that area, and when I came the three times I was denied, you guys acted like it was like asking for an Antichrist to come just to put a mobile home where there were 87."

"The problem now is that I spent all my retirement to try to live up to your standards, and your standards seem to be adjustable," he said.

Mayor Panepinto said he thinks the reasoning behind the city and the planning and zoning committee allowing the placement of the mobile home that is near Starwood's property was based on the fact that the individual living there is elderly. If the occupant were to die, the mobile home would have to be removed from the property.

"I never did understand why he was denied," said council member Janice Carter Beard, whose district includes Starwood's property.

"I'm asking you just to put the water lines down so I can tap into them," Starwood said. "After $150,000 of my hard-earned money I don't think that's too much to ask for."

Also at the meeting Tuesday, the council unanimously approved transferring $8,173 from the surplus funds from the close-out of the Street Improvements budget to add to the $20,000 in the Miscellaneous Sidewalk Improvements fund. The total $28,173 will be used as the city's part of an almost $85,000 Downtown Development District construction including beautification efforts.

Council member Lemar Marshall questioned using all the miscellaneous sidewalk budget, but city administrator Lacy Landrum said the street department fund includes money allocated for sidewalk repairs and Panepinto said the project is a great deal for the city.

The council also:

• Authorized the selling and serving of alcohol at North Cypress Fitness Center during an upcoming race and to obtain an open container law waiver for the area of the event.

• Authorized the mayor to contract with Roofing Solutions for $43,680 to remove and replace a panel roof system for Hangar #15.

• Approved a $76,000 contract with Ronald Morse Construction for the "Morris & Cypress Sidewalk Improvements" project.

• Introduced an ordinance to transfer $26,419.89 from the general fund for Microsoft software renewals.