NORTH MIAMI - Seven weeks after rising floodwater left hundreds of families homeless in Miami, it seemed many had a place to call home when the Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers pulled into town.
However, for at least one local family, hopes of a temporary home are being dashed by ordinance restrictions.
Tim Rutherford and his family were on the waiting list for a FEMA trailer and were excited when their new trailer arrived on Saturday.
“It is a brand new FEMA trailer,” Rutherford said. “We planned to set it up on property that belongs to my dad on the corner of Rose and Nebraska in North Miami.”
Rutherford, his wife and three children lived in Eastgate prior to the flood and were told, along with other residents in that area, that they would not be allowed to return to the area.
“We made arrangements to have the FEMA trailer set up on my dad's property until we could get a new house built or bought,” Rutherford said. “We're talking maybe six months maximum.”
Rutherford said he pulled up to the North Miami property to find the town mayor blocking the driveway.
“He (Mayor Julian Combs) had called in the police and they were blocking the road and not letting the delivery guys bring the trailer in,” Rutherford said.
Rutherford said Combs refused to allow FEMA to place the trailer in North Miami because it violated a city ordinance that doesn't allow mobile homes to be set up inside city limits.
“There are trailer houses all over town,” Rutherford said. “When I brought this to his attention he (Combs) said a city ordinance said you have to have prior consent to set up a mobile home in North Miami.”
Rutherford said he asked Combs what steps he needed to take to get consent from the city and was told the matter would have to be brought before the city council at a regular meeting.
“Of course the meeting was last week and they refuse to call a special meeting,” Rutherford said. “He told me I would have to wait until next month.”
Rutherford said he was told by Combs that he would also need written notices from the surrounding neighbors stating that they had no objection to the mobile home being placed in that location.
“I went door to door and no one objected to the trailer being there,” Rutherford said. “I even got a signed petition from the neighbors.”
Rutherford indicated that, if action is not taken to resolve the matter soon, FEMA will place the mobile home with someone else on the list for assistance.
“FEMA told us if we didn't have a place to put it, we'll lose it,” Rutherford said. “They could have at least said we could park the trailer there until we could get this mess straightened out. I may have just lost a home for my kids because of this.”
In Miami, city officials waived an ordinance that bans mobile homes in some locations after the July 2 devastation left so many residents with no place to go.
“We held a special meeting to make an exception to the mobile home ordinance due to the flood,” said Miami Mayor Brent Brassfield. “I can't imagine North Miami not doing the same thing.”
Several attempts were made to contact the Town of North Miami and the community's mayor for comment, but phone calls were not returned.