On February 21, 2019, the Iowa City zoning commission meeting was packed with people, lining the walls and filling all of the available seats. There were two items on the agenda for the members of the commission to discuss that night; the most significant being the rezoning of the Forest View mobile home park. The majority of people in the room were residents of Forest View and the surrounding neighborhoods, and had come tonight to speak about the project and the effect that it would have on their community.
To begin the meeting, the proposed development was described, and all of the new changes implemented in newer designs were explained. The plan is to create a commercial center on the middle to eastern side of the property, where the mobile homes currently are, and is set to include a gas station, restaurants, and possibly a hotel. The mobile homes will be replaced with manufactured homes, and the residential area will be relocated to the far west side of the property. The neighborhood side of Forest View will have community recreational areas and senior housing as well.
But what makes this development so impactful to the residents, and so necessary to get underway, is its plan for affordable long term housing. The manufactured homes will have a low monthly rent that if the residents pay for 15 years, will eventually transfer into ownership of their homes. For many, this would be their first chance to become homeowners, as well as to own a permanent home within a community that is central to the way they live their lives. Forest View residents spoke about how their strong community of neighbors was why they chose to live in the mobile home park in the first place; and it’s the reason now that they remain invested in this development, even after three years of uncertainty.
What struck me the most, after hearing the long, dry explanation from both the commission members and the developers at the beginning of the meeting, was how different “three years” sounded coming from them than it did when it came from the residents of Forest View. The first person to approach the stand to speak was a resident of the neighborhood for over 40 years. She described the excitement she remembers feelings when the developers first came to her and her neighbors. She had never owned a home before, and this was an unbelievable opportunity for her to do so and still be within the community that she loved. But, she went on, one year turned into two. Then three. Now, with no end in sight to the delays and the reconsiderations that plague the development plans, she, along with the countless other neighbors she’s lived next to for years, is having her mobile home fall apart around her from old age.
More and more residents came up and echoed her concerns. Many spoke about how long the development was taking to be set into motion, and how important it was that the zoning commission make concrete decisions to finalize its construction.…