City ends exception for Post Oak trailer park, Sulphur Twisters, choir and boys soccer team honored

Published 10:58 am Saturday, March 19, 2022

The Sulphur City Council held its Monday meeting in a temporary FEMA trailer in front of the old Kroger Store on Napoleon Street.

The 500 N. Huntington St. location is undergoing remediation due to hurricane damage.

The slightly smaller council chambers dictated the use of an overflow room for what was probably the largest assembly the council had seen in some time.

Three local high school groups were honored. Proud parents came for the presentations. In addition, residents voiced views for and against a local mobile home park.

The council said no to a duplex development — as it was currently designed — and questioned how a proposed Hilton-branded hotel near the Kyoto restaurant would impact traffic at the light on La. 108 in front of Lowes and also after vehicles turned into Lowes.

Sulphur Armed Forces Commissioner Garret Lawrence honored the Sulphur High School Choir for its appearances in support of those who sacrificed their lives, veterans and current military men and women.

In addition to a certificate commemorating the event, the students will be honored by the commission and by the owner of Mr. Gattis with a pizza party. Molly Jones is Sulphur High School Choral and Fine Arts department head.

Mayor Mike Danahay recognized the Sulphur High School Twisters dance team and boys soccer team.

The Twisters competed against hundreds of other teams at the National Dance Team Championship in Orlando, Fla., placing 14th in the nation for Large Varsity Jazz. Holly Beth Land is coach. The soccer team went 20-3-2 and undefeated in district play before reaching the quarterfinals in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Division I playoffs. Trevor Foolkes is coach.

Council was asked to vote on an ordinance granting an exception to Post Oak Mobile Home Park of Sulphur, 598 South Post Road, to allow for mobile homes in a business district.

The Post Oak Mobile Home Park was purchased by the current owner and her husband, now deceased, in 2002. It was zoned for business in 2003, and has been operating with an exception since.

The owner said trailers that were damaged by Hurricane Laura were removed.

She rents 11 lots to FEMA and intends to sell the park and hopes to continue the exception that has been in place to allow for mobile homes in a business district. She owns six mobile homes in the park.

The park has 23 total spaces.

The mobile home park is in City Council President Joy Abshire’s district, and Abshire said she lives across the street. She noted that furniture has often been piled up on Post Oak Road and a stabbing had been reported at the mobile home park.

The owner said that when she found out the trash was a concern, she and a friend picked it up and hauled it off. She said did not know there was a problem. The owner’s daughter said that when her mother finds out about law enforcement issues, she evicts those who are involved the next day.

“What kind of background checks did you make before renting your mobile homes,” Abshire asked the owner.

The owner said she made calls to city court and sometimes went by “a feel,” for the person.

Dalton Langford, a Sulphur mobile home park owner said, “the city could fix this by making certain rules and regulations so that when you do have a park it can be nice, something to be proud of.”

“There’s nothing wrong with mobile homes,” Langford said. “It gives young people a chance to get started in life.

“Right now, rental property is so high, anyone can hardly afford it. If you have the right restrictions from the city for the people who want to develop a mobile home park, it would enhance the value of the property around them. I had a chance to rent a big part of my park to FEMA, but I would not have control over who lived in those mobile homes. I wouldn’t relinquish. Mobile home parks and the people who live in them are good people.”

One of the workers at a mini storage business near the mobile home park would not claim that the drug users he sees passing his property every day are from the Post Oak park, but he said drug activity was going on 15 years, not just after Hurricane Laura.

The president of the Gilmore Acres Homeowners Association presented the council with a petition signed by residents who couldn’t be at the meeting who are concerned about how the park is being run.

Local attorney Maurice Tynes spoke on behalf of the property owner, saying, “This is legally,” and he repeated, “legally, non-conforming use.”

He closed with, “Either tonight, you approve what she’s wanting to do her property as legal nonconforming use it is or we’ll get it done.”

Sulphur Attorney Cade Cole said, “This is not a rezoning to a classification that will allow for trailer park use. That could have been asked for along the way. It wasn’t.”

The mobile home park was allowed as a pre-existing, non-confoming use when land use was reviewed. However, the language of the Sulphur ordinance, which he described as “fairly standard,” specifies that the structure that is nonconforming cannot be replaced with something else.

“It specifies in part one under section 2, if there is damage or destruction to a nonconforming structure, if it is more than 50 percent destroyed by price per square foot it loses its ability to maintain its nonconforming use. Whether or not this should be a mobile home park, that’s another question.”

Cole explained that the council’s vote was to determine if the mobile home meets the definition of crossing the threshold for the nonconforming use and if it does, whether the exception would be granted.

Abshire, who has lived across from the park since 1989, told representatives from Exit Realty who spoke on behalf of the person who was interested in purchasing the property, that the city reached out and asked him to share the address of some of his properties and he chose not to do that.

“I think that’s indicative of getting more of the same,” she said.

The council voted against granting the exception.

In the matter of the duplex design submitted, the council suggested the developer work on a design that would allow for a fire truck turnaround, additional parking for guests and consideration of students who walk or ride bikes to school. He may present to the council again in a year.

The council placed stipulations on their approval to rezone and subdivide property east of Kyotos’ Japanese Restaurant from business to commercial for a Hilton Brand hotel: A report regarding the consent from Lowes and a traffic count.

Joy Abshire concluded with the following.

“Through the years, zoning in our city has been random. And because of this, we have areas that co-mingle with a variety of land uses, not all being compatible, and not all supportive of new growth. Due to the previous lack of direction and control, our city in 2003-2004 began the study, adoption and forward movement towards a formalized land use ordinance.”

She said decisions should be made looking beyond what is OK today to what is inclusive and in view of the future.

“Every choice can add or detract from the character of a community. The most challenging choices involve making long-term decisions for the community as a whole. These choices are necessary because change is inevitable.”