Ephraim council votes to close DJ Trailer Court; residents must move out by Jan. 31
EPHRAIM—The Ephraim City Council has voted to shut down the troubled DJ Trailer Court on 200 North and 200 West in Ephraim, an action that will require occupants of about 20 trailers to move.
At a meeting last Wednesday, Nov. 2, the council unanimously approved a motion by Councilman John Scott to reject a “mitigation plan” submitted by David Strate, the property owner, for fixing a long list of deficiencies identified in an inspection of the property.
From there, the council moved quickly to a motion by Councilman Todd Alder to notify the owner and residents that all utilities would be shut off Jan. 31. Alder’s motion also passed unanimously.
Brant Hanson, the city manager, said city staff would hand-deliver a letter, written in both English and Spanish, informing residents they needed to move by the end of January.
In addition, he said, the city would hire a contractor to shut off utilities. That way, the city could be sure utilities “are terminated properly” so the shut-off wouldn’t cause any damage or problems on or off the property.
Hanson said the city would also have a temporary fence put around the property, which takes up a good part of a city block.
But he said the city would put a lien on the property in hopes of eventually recovering the costs of the utility shut-off and fencing.
In late September, inspectors from Sunrise Engineering, a firm the city has contracted with for building inspection, code enforcement and related services, inspected the trailer court and drew up a list and description of problems that ran nearly 20 pages.
In response, the city council ordered Strate to take some immediate steps, including cleaning up junk; removing abandoned trailers; removing RVs, which under zoning aren’t permitted on the site; and providing information to the city about who owns the various trailer units on the property.
Besides those steps, the council directed Strate to prepare the mitigation plan describing how he would correct the other problems described in the 20-page Sunrise Engineering report. The plan was due Oct. 21.
Hanson reported that while Strate had done a little work, he had not completed most of the immediate requirements. Abandoned trailers and RVs had not been moved, he said.
He said he was concerned about evidence Strate was trying to hand off responsibility for some repairs to tenants. A man had contacted the city, Hanson said, saying he had asked to rent one of the abandoned trailers. The man reported that Strate had told him he could rent the unit, but first, he had to fix utility problems.
And while the mitigation plan came in on time, the council decided the plan failed to show serious intent to fix the all problems outlined by Sunrise Engineering.
“I was very disappointed at the way the whole thing (the mitigation plan) came back to us,” Councilman Richard Wheeler said. “I don’t think he’s addressed even a small percentage of the problems placed before him.”
Wheeler said the mitigation plan asked the city to overlook items that were not related to health and safety and for a reprieve on moving the RVs. And the owner was trying to “rewrite the zoning laws to fit his situation.”
Councilman John Scott said he counted 45 statements in the mitigation plan saying “I will address later” or “I will talk to the tenant” or “I will check on later.”
“We can’t go on like this,” Scott said. “Either bring this up to speed or we’re closing down by a specific date….We can’t wait until we have a fire or electrocution or cross-contamination (of culinary and sewer water).”
Council members asked City Attorney Marcus Gilson if the city was on firm legal ground in closing down the trailer court. “I think we’re fine,” Gilson replied.
Hanson, the city manager, said he regretting displacing the low-income residents of the trailer court.
In that context, he described being contacted early in deliberations on the trailer court by the daughter of a resident. She asked what was going on and whether her mother would be forced to move. Hanson replied that, yes, her mother might have to move.
The city manager said the daughter “expressed her concern about the conditions her mother was living under and said she understood that something needed to be done.”
Following the council action, Mayor Richard Squire said, “We’re not stopping.” He said the city would be inspecting two other trailer parks in Ephraim soon.