Mobile Homes Parks Law: How It Affects Communities
(from Maine Townsman, December 1989)


As a number of municipalities scramble to meet the January 1, 1990 deadline by which all municipalities must permit mobile home parks in "a number of environmentally suitable locations," a look at this legal requirement suggests that a lot of the scrambling is not necessary. This requirement, imposed by 30-A MRSA 4358(3)(M), does not require any action on the part of municipalities that do not have any local ordinances restricting the location of mobile home parks. In those municipalities, mobile home parks can locate anywhere in town. If the municipality wants to regulate the location of mobile home parks, it should enact a town-wide zoning ordinance regulating the location of other developments as well.

In relation to municipalities that have land use controls that affect the location of mobile home parks, notably zoning ordinances, it is only those municipalities whose ordinances prohibit the location of mobile home parks in environmentally suitable locations or locations that are not suitable for other reasons such as locational setting, natural features or prior lot division that will have to take steps to comply with the law. Most Maine zoning ordinances describe the uses that are permitted in a particular zone, and while a use that is not specifically described as permitted is prohibited by implication, many of those same ordinances have catch-all phrases that authorize "uses similar to other permitted uses." By interpreting those catch-all provisions in a manner to allow mobile home parks in certain zones within a municipality, for example those zones which allow denser forms of development such as cluster housing or campgrounds, municipalities will be applying ordinances in a manner that is consistent with the law. This interpretation of the ordinance should be codified when the ordinance is revised or amended to list mobile home parks as a permitted use in those zones which are appropriate.

Finally, the mobile home park law is not designed to allow municipalities to engage in limited zoning for the purpose of designating the location of mobile home parks. If municipalities want to limit the location of mobile home parks to certain areas of town, those municipalities will have to engage in town-wide zoning. They cannot rely on the language in the mobile home park law as authorizing a limited form of zoning aimed only at mobile home parks.

A second issue that is causing some confusion is the applicability of the lot sizes contained in this year's legislation, P.L. 1989 c. 506, only applies to mobile home parks outside a shoreland zone. It creates maximum lot sizes for the lots on which the mobile home sits of 6,500 sq. ft. for mobile home parks on municipal sewers, 12,000 sq. ft. for parks with clustered subsurface waste disposal systems and 20,000 sq. ft. per unit for each lot with a single subsurface waste disposal system. Municipalities may also require that parks contain an additional 650 sq. ft. per unit for open space (see the statute for restrictions) in parks on municipal sewers and an additional 8,000 sq. ft. per unit in parks with clustered systems.

The new law is ambiguous about the impact of these lot sizes on existing municipal lot sizes. The statute provides that a municipality may not enforce ordinances which "circumvent the intent" or "which conflict with the provisions" of the new statute. One theory is that the new State maximums would simply replace existing lot sizes, however, such a decision can only come from a court. Towns are therefore well advised to take action to put these maximum lot sizes in place, otherwise, they may find that their locally created lot sizes have been totally eradicated by the new law. In such a case, those municipalities that have not enacted or amended an ordinance to adopt the State's maximum lot sizes for mobile home parks would have to rest on current law regarding mobile home lot sizes.

Current law is articulated in the State's minimum lot size law and the mobile home park regulations promulgated by the Manufactured Housing Board. When those laws are read in combination with each other, it is clear that mobile home parks may be constructed with 5,000 sq. ft. lots for the placement of the mobile home with an additional 15,000 sq. ft. for each unit in the park if the park has a clustered subsurface septic system. If the park has single subsurface septic systems for each mobile home, then each mobile home must be placed on a 20,000 sq. ft. lot. Finally, if the mobile home park is on municipal sewer, the total lot size required for each mobile home is 5,000 sq. ft. per mobile home.

Two other aspects of mobile home park development under the new law are worthy of comment. First, mobile home parks continue to be subdivisions and must be reviewed and approved as subdivisions. Municipalities may not apply road standards or lot sizes contained in their subdivision law to mobile home parks nor may they apply other subdivision requirements that are aimed exclusively at mobile home parks. All other subdivision requirements are applicable. Second, while municipalities may not apply locally created road standards to mobile home parks, the new law does articulate a number of requirements that the roads in mobile home parks must meet. A paving requirement may also be enacted by a municipality if paving is required for roads in other types of developments. Additional requirements are being promulgated now in the form of road design regulations by the Manufactured Housing Board.

In summary, comments that suggest that municipalities must take some action in order to be in compliance with the law controlling the placement of mobile home parks are mistaken in many cases. Municipalities that do not have land use ordinances prohibiting mobile home parks from locating within a municipality and those that have zoning ordinances with phrases that can be interpreted to allow the placement of mobile home parks are already in compliance with the law. It is only those few municipalities that have outright prohibitions against the location of mobile home parks or that only allow them to be developed in locations where development cannot be done in an environmentally sound manner, such as in wetlands or where location selected is not reasonably suitable due to prior lot division, locational setting within the municipality, natural features or similar factors, that have to be concerned about rewriting local land use laws.

In relation to lot sizes in mobile home parks, municipalities must act to correct their existing lot sizes in order to impose the State's maximum lot sizes as articulated in the new mobile home park law (P.L. 1989 c. 506). In municipalities that do not take such action, developers will have the advantage of existing lot sizes created by the State's minimum lot size law and the manufactured housing regulations. Those lot sizes are much smaller than the lot sizes which municipalities can impose under the new law.


Mobile Home Parks and Lot Sizes

The "new" law, P.L. 1989 c. 506, only changes lot sizes for lots within a mobile home park. It imposes maximum lot sizes for mobile home parks located outside a shoreland zone. It wipes out larger, municipally imposed lot sizes.

Municipalities can impose the lot sizes listed below by amending local ordinances that apply to mobile home parks. Municipalities without ordinances can impose them by creating a minimum lot size ordinance that applies to all dwelling units. Within such an ordinance larger lots can be required for any dwelling not located within a mobile park.

(A) Mobile Home Parks on municipal sewers: 6,500 sq. ft. plus 10 percent for open space (see statute for open space restrictions);

(B) Mobile Home Parks with clustered septic systems: 12,000 sq. ft. for the lot on which the mobile home sits and an additional 8,000 sq. ft. per unit somewhere else in the park;

(C) Mobile Home Parks with single unit septic system: 20,000 sq. ft. for the lot on which the mobile home sits (this requirement is also imposed by the State Minimal Lot Size Law).

Municipalities that do nothing regarding lot sizes will have the following lot sizes:

(A) Mobile Home Parks on municipal sewers: 5,000 sq. ft.;

(B) Mobile Home Parks with clustered septic systems: 5,000 sq. ft. for the lot on which the mobile home sits and an additional 15,000 sq. ft. per unit somewhere else in the park;

(C) Mobile Home Parks with single unit septic system: 20,000 sq. ft. for the lot on which the mobile home sits.