What sort of place do mobile homes have in present-day Baldwin County?


County Manager Carlos Tobar, pictured above, and the five county commissioners currently are in the process of drawing up a new property designation map for unincorporated Baldwin County.

For better and for worse, manufactured homes or "trailers" are often associated with places like Baldwin County and the Deep South.

Although sometimes the subject of snooty jokes, trailers have their positive attributes, too. After World War II, when singlewide and doublewide trailers first became popular in this part of the nation, they provided homes with actual insulation and reliable roofs, as opposed to the shacks, shotgun houses and poorly-constructed stick-built homes that so many people in rural Baldwin County lived in back then.

Fast forward to today, when the County Commission is attempting to figure out what sort of place trailers have in the modern world, both literally and figuratively. The commissioners last year voted to prohibit the construction (or installation) of new trailers in an overwhelming majority of the unincorporated county (keep in mind, all of this only pertains to unincorporated Baldwin County and not the city of Milledgeville). Basically, the rule was that you could only install a new trailer in an existing trailer park or an area or neighborhood that already was mostly trailers. This also included tiny homes, which have soared in popularity this century, or any other type of dwelling that was "rolled in," as opposed to "site-built."

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At some point, however, the county commissioners decided that they went a little too far. A new map, being assessed piece by piece, currently is being drawn up. The new map would allow for new doublewide trailers and new tiny homes in the overwhelming majority of Baldwin County, from a geographic standpoint. There are three property designations to keep in mind:

• R-1 AG – doublewide trailers and tiny homes allowed, as long as the tiny home is at least 500 square feet

• R-2 AG – singlewide trailers, doublewide trailers and tiny homes allowed (this would be considered the "libertarian" designation of the three)

• R-1 R – no mobile homes allowed, although tiny homes would be allowed in certain situations, so long as the tiny home is at least 500 square feet and at least 75 percent the square footage of the existing houses in the neighborhood (the average square footage of the houses in the area could be no more than 750 square feet)

For perspective, here are a few examples of several neighborhoods that have already received their proposed designation. Pretty much the entire area around Airport Road and Lakeshore Circle area will be R-1 R. A similar lakeside neighborhood, the Old Plantation Trail neighborhood off of Ga. 212, also is certain to be R-1 R. On other parts of the lake, however, new construction on the water will be R-1 R, while new construction directly across the street will be R-1 AG (doublewides allowed).

It's not just the more expensive neighborhoods that will be R-1 R, however. For example, all of the newer subdivisions around Meriwether Road are certain to be R-1 R. This also goes for the cluster of new site-built homes around Lake Laurel Road and similar parts of the unincorporated county, also.

County Manager Carlos Tobar says that the original intent was to "protect neighborhoods."

"That's always been the intent," he said, adding that it's important to keep in mind that this is all a proposal and "still must be approved by the county commissioners."

It will be interesting to see which rural parts of the county receive the R-1 AG or R-2 AG designations. For most people, it's irrevelant. For people looking to move into a brand-new mobile home, however, it's significant. The Census Bureau most recently put the "average price of a new doublewide manufactured home" at $139,900 and the average price for a new singlewide at $76,400, a difference of more than $60,000.

Cindy Humphrey has become the No. 1 county commission watchdog in Baldwin County, and she frequently speaks at the meetings. At this point, she pretty much has her own assigned seat in the front row. Humphrey says that she didn't like the idea when she first heard it, and she still doesn't like it.

"Fight it. That would be my advice to people in the county. I just don't feel like that (the county commissioners) have a right to tell people what they can and can't live in," she said. "For a lot of people trying to make it and do for their own, a singlewide is the only thing they can afford."

The proposed map is expected to be completed in the coming months, and that will be followed by a series of public hearings.

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