COMMERCE — Commerce officials are negotiating a land swap with a woman whose attempt to move a trailer into town was met with an ordinance debacle.
If negotiations are successful, the city may have diffused what its attorney said is a potentially litigious situation and given itself more time to re-examine its zoning ordinances.
Francis Tyree, an 80-year-old woman who waited through the federally funded buyout of her Picher home, thought things would move swiftly and smoothly as she prepared to move to the community where she attends church.
She purchased land, bought a brand new double-wide trailer, had footings and a foundation prepared on her 40-foot frontage lot and paid $50 for what she thought was a permit to move the trailer into town — but it wasn’t.
What Tyree paid for was an “application,” according to her receipt. However, she did not receive an application because, according to the city attorney, one did not exist until recently.
What Tyree received was a $50 receipt marked “trailer application” and a copy of city ordinances explaining the requirements of the permit.
What she did not receive, nor was she advised of, was that there were additional ordinances that prohibit the placement of a trailer on a lot with frontage less than 60 feet.
Unaware of the frontage restriction and having purchased the land from Sandra Ross — a member of the Commerce City Council — Tyree felt confident that there was no foreseeable problem, according to her daughter Sandra Horn.
To complicate matters, an adjoining property owner raised an objection to the trailer, bringing the process to a halt.
Tyree said Thursday that she has now spent all of her money and is facing a Jan. 1 deadline to vacate her Picher home in Mineral Heights.
“I don’t know what I am going to do if I can’t put this trailer on my property,” Tyree said with tears in her eyes as she waited for Commerce council members to emerge from an hour-long executive session.
“It is in God’s hands,” Tyree said. “If I am supposed to be here, it will happen. If I am not supposed to live here — it won’t happen.”
In recent weeks, the family has been before the city’s zoning commission to ask it to support a recommendation to change the ordinance by lowering the restriction.
The zoning commission refused and the issue has turned into a shouting match, according to family members, between the Tyree family and Commerce Mayor Kenneth Duboise.
Duboise’s daughter is the owner of the property adjacent to Tyree’s and has objected to the trailer.
When council members emerged from executive session Thursday, Jack Julian moved to amend the city ordinance and reduce the lot restriction to 40 feet.
The motion died due to the lack of a second.
Family members met with Commerce City Attorney Erik Johnson briefly after the meeting at which time the proposal for the swap was discussed.
The city is proposing the exchange of land recently acquired by the city through demolition of dilapidated homes for Tyree’s property — which will be made available for purchase.
To prohibit a repeat of what some are calling a “fiasco,” Johnson said that those who seek a permit to bring a trailer into the city limits are presented with a packet of information which includes a detailed application and all city ordinances that apply.
Johnson said no applicant will leave city hall without understanding the policies and procedures regarding trailers in the city.