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