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County rescinds modular homes ban

After voting to extend the ban on modular homes, the commission changes its mind Tuesday and will consider the matter Aug. 24.

The county's efforts to control the spread of modular homes into areas designated for conventional single-family houses is getting more confusing.

Two weeks after the County Commission unanimously approved an indefinite countywide ban, commissioners rescinded that vote Tuesday, 4-1. Instead, they agreed to consider the matter again Aug. 24, one day before a 90-day moratorium expires.

Some commissioners said they hope to adopt an ordinance at that time, but what it might say is unclear. Commissioners who switched positions did not explain their decisions.

"To tell you the truth, I'm really confused right now," said Terry Ovsianik, a Royal Highlands resident trying to keep modular, or manufactured, homes out of her subdivision in northwest Hernando.

Larry Jennings, who oversees planning for the county, said he thinks commissioners want him to focus on an approach they shunned July 27, the day they opted for the indefinite ban.

This approach, favored by Jennings, would require all new homes, site-built or manufactured, to have certain features. These design standards include a 4- by 8-foot porch, an 8-inch perimeter foundation, a garage and minimum roof pitch and dimensions.

Some Royal Highlands neighbors have complained, however, that the design standards would not be enough. They worry that modular home builders could find a way to conform to the requirements on bare-bones models.

These homeowners fear the possible spread of modular homes would jeopardize property values. Some modular homes closely resemble mobile homes. The only difference is that the state certifies modulars, while the federal government stamps mobile homes.

Under state law, counties must treat modular homes the same as site-built homes because they meet state standards. Mobile homes, on the other hand, can be restricted to certain zones, such as rural areas.

Howard Surplus of Superior Builders in Pasco County said his company distributes high-end Wausau brand modular homes that look like site-built homes. Even some Royal Highlands residents say they would not mind a Wausau home near them.

"There's a modular, and there's a mobile-home modular," Surplus said, adding that he agrees with Jennings.

Commissioners left themselves the option of extending the 90-day ban if they fail to pass an ordinance in two weeks.

That, in turn, might lead to litigation. The state Department of Community Affairs has sued Marion County for banning modular homes in certain areas. The Florida Manufactured Housing Association has told Hernando officials it might sue if the ban is continued here.

Royal Highlands resident Diane Rowden, a former School Board member and 1996 County Commission candidate, said she would welcome a court fight. "The (state) law has to be challenged," she said.