Imagine this. You put your name in a drawing. You win a fully-furnished new home. You have keys in hand, but you can't move in. That's the dilemma facing a Bay St. Louis couple.
George and Susan Outten won the new home in a drawing during the Governor's Recovery Expo. It's sitting on their property, but Hancock County officials won't allow them to move in. They consider it a mobile home, and the Outten's property isn't zoned for that.
"It devastates you. I just can't believe with them trying to rebuild the coast that they would forbid anyone to move into a nice home like this," George Outten said.
The Mississippi Manufactured Housing Association agrees. The group held a news conference this week to help support the couple's claim that their cottage-built home is built far better than a trailer.
"We are trying to educate the people that manufactured housing is durable, it's safe. It's built to a national code and people should be allowed to live in a home they can afford," said Jennifer Hall, Executive Director of the Mississippi Manufactured Homes Association.
Depite that, Hancock County officials say it still doesn't meet the zoning requirements for that particular area.
"Unfortunately for them, mobile homes fall under the HUD code, not necessarily the International Building Code. They are certified. It is certified as a wind zone III which meets 130 miles an hour standard. In our High Hazard areas, we've adopted 140 miles per hour wind load," Hancock County building inspector Mickey Lagasse said.
Because they live in a Coastal High Hazard area, the county says the home is more likely to be damaged by surge waters than flood waters or wind. As a result, it says 130 miles per hour protection won't cut it.
According the the county, there are two main issues - zoning and safety. But, the Outtens said they were given a permit back in April to rebuild.
"Originally, we had a permit. They said it was okay as long as we had a house that was smaller than what we had before. Then several days later, said it's not. It's a trailer, which it is not. It's a well-built home," Outten said.
Once again, the county disagrees.
"They claimed that they had a permit. The permit was actually for a house to be constructed, not for the placement for a mobile home, or a modular for that matter," Lagasse said.
But, Susan Outten doesn't understand why the county can't work with residents who want to rebuild affordable, well-built manufactured homes.
"I thought they wanted people to rebuild on the coast. They're not giving us any choice. There's no place to come back to. People can't afford much more than this. They have to have something affordable like our cottage," Outten said.
"There are plenty of other areas in the county that would not preclude it from being there. Certainly, we don't want them to leave. We just want to get them into an area where it'll be more safe," Lagasse said. "There are certainly places in the county where they can put it. No one wants them to give it back. No one wants to kick them out of a beautiful home that's been given to them."
But, George Outten says he only wants to get back into his home and get beyond what he sees as political drama.
"I just want to live my last few years in peace without bureaucratic nonsense, and that's what I call it, bureaucratic nonsense."
The county suggested the couple fill out a new application to rebuild a home that meets the county's zoning requirements.
by Krystal Allan