SECO19: What You Need to Know About Zoning, Planning and More

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SECO19 Jon Harrison
Jon Harrison of Inspire Communities talks to attendees at SECO19 about community rehabilitation.

Experienced Owners at SECO19 Detail Plans for Your Manufactured Home Community

SECO day 2 lobby
SECO attendees assemble for day two presentations.

SECO19 featured presentations from some of the most seasoned industry professionals. Don Westphal of Donald C. Westphal Associates kicked off the day with a vibrant history of his own professional development and key elements to park design, planning, and zoning. 

Westphal designed his first community in Southern Illinois in 1964 and has worked as a designer, consultant and owner in the manufactured housing industry for more than 50 years.

Insight on Community Planning and Design

Westphal spent the morning offering advice to new community owners at SECO19 in Atlanta on how to plan and design communities. 

During his presentation, Westphal identified the key members of a planning and design team. Per his guidance, the ideal team consists of a qualified developer, a knowledgeable planner, a respected engineer, and consultants.

With a solid team in place, Westphal recommends that a new community owner develop an understanding of the land they need to fill as well as their spatial constraints. After years working in landscape architecture, Westphal warns that “It isn’t cheap to move dirt.” In other words, the deeper the understanding you have of your community’s specific aesthetic needs, the more cost-effective your strategy becomes.

Comparative Pricing in Communities

This consideration also relates to your neighboring communities and available housing. Looking at neighbors comparatively is a great way to effectively manage the quality expectations of your prospective tenants.

Currently, Westphal is working with a community in New Buffalo, Mich., in part to provide rezoning consultancy. He points out that the community upgrade faces scrutiny from city residents and other housing developers who are concerned about home sales. Still, there is a dire need for affordable housing in the area.

Rehabbing Older Communities 

The following presentation by Jon Harrison of Inspire Communities was a fitting segue from Westphal’s as it reviewed the rehabilitation process of Cowetta Mobile Home Park. Harrison explains that there is a need for new foundations and to improve the overall value of the park. To do this, Inspire added homes appraised at or above $70,000. 

There are several ways to build a greater understanding of a community, Harrison said. 

“If you drive through a community at night, you learn a lot. Drive through a community on a holiday weekend, you learn even more,” he said. “If you drive through a community in a downpour, you find out about its drainage.”

All of this provided valuable insight for novice community owners while driving the message that rehabbing communities and homes is sometimes necessary and always possible with the correct priorities and financing.

Marketing for Manufactured Home Communities

In the afternoon, attendees heard from Darren Krolewski of MHVillage on “Marketing Essentials for The Independent Community Owner”. Krolewski brought a wealth of information and experience to the presentation, explaining traditional and digital marketing strategies that owners can take on themselves.

darren krowlewski speaks on marketing
Darren Krolewski speaks on marketing to independent community owners.

He encourages listeners at SECO19 to ensure that prospective residents are aware that new owners’ communities are actively looking for new homeowners and residents, and that community owners clearly lay out what residents can expect to rent or buy. Krolewski noted that there are several ways to spread the word, including print literature that a community owner can dispense to locally inform on availability, features and more.

The presentation extended to digital marketing with a strong emphasis on mobile-friendliness and response time.

“Fifty-three percent of people will abandon a site if it doesn’t load within three seconds,” Krowleski said. Not only that, but sites with poor mobile responsiveness often permanently lose potential buyers and residents.

The evening concluded with information on exhibitors and attendees, as well as a reception and a roundtable on attendee-suggested topics.

For more information, please visit the SECO Conference website.