A Youngsville ordinance that puts an age restriction on mobile homes moving into the city could discriminate against those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
That's the argument the city's former mayor made during Thursday's council meeting.
"If anyone ever challenges you on that, you'll be in trouble because you're discriminating against them," Wilson Viator told the city council. "That's discrimination. I don't want anything to come out of this because I think you're going to take care of it."
After a lengthy discussion, the Youngsville City Council narrowly passed an introductory ordinance that would be more lenient. It would allow mobile homes that are up to 10 years old to locate in the city. The original measure, which was introduced a year ago, prohibited mobile homes that were more than five years old from locating in the city.
Three voted in favor of amending the existing ordinance. Councilmen Jamey Abshire and Lindy Bolgiano voted against.
"We have to be careful before we — I don't want to say 'lower our standards' — but go from having something in place for everyone to lowering it for some," Bolgiano said during the meeting.
The five-year age restriction on mobile homes in the city was adopted in August, just as students were returning for their second year of classes at the newly constructed Southside High School.
The current mayor reminded the council what prompted the restriction in the first place — a concern that people were flocking to Youngsville to attend a newer school with better amenities.
"Part of the dialogue around this was when Southside was opening, it was a very desirable school district," Ken Ritter said during the council meeting. "So we raised the standards for structures in the area."
But restrictions were only placed on mobile homes, not other types of housing units. That's one issue Viator said he had with the ordinance.
"You're affecting younger people and lower income people that are using trailer houses to get a start in life," Viator told the council. "I have a granddaughter who is starting a life in Youngsville and who basically can't afford anything else."
Harold Romero, who owns Isle Labe Trailer Villa in Youngsville, said his lot is half empty because of the restriction.
"I walked by one that was five years old and one that was brand new, and you couldn't tell the difference," Romero said during the meeting. "I think it's discrimination really. "
But Rocky Landry, who owns Crepe Myrtle Trailer Park, said he is filled to capacity and doesn't mind the existing restrictions because it keeps standards high.
"The stricter ordinance is better for me because it keeps the homes nice in there," Landry said. "But you can't make it so strict that I can't fill my lot and make money."
Southside High's enrollment already exceeds the school's capacity.
There are 1,647 students enrolled in the school for the upcoming school year. The school was built to handle 1,400 students.
Six portable buildings are being added to the campus this summer to accommodate students, according to Jennifer Gardner, chief administrative officer for the Lafayette Parish School System.
It's difficult to know if Southside's higher-than-anticipated enrollment has been due to continued growth in the area or people relocating to the district to attend a newer school.
"Youngsville is growing," Gardner said. "And when you have a growing — and especially a younger — community, you're going to have more students."
The new ordinance that would allow older mobile homes to locate in Youngsville will be up for final adoption at next month's meeting on Aug. 8.
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