Martha Mauritson | Carlsbad Current-Argus (Carlsbad, N.M.)
CARLSBAD — The oil and gas boom had filled every vacant apartment and motel room in town, and desperate workers were sleeping on the floor or living in someone’s backyard.
The lodging industry recognized the opportunity, and now hotels and motels are springing up on both south and north sides of town. Apartments are also proliferating, with brand new complexes starting to expand before the ink is dry on the last lease in phase one.
Still, it seems that Carlsbad could not come up with residential space fast enough to meet the ever-growing demand.
Enter James Knott and a few other locals with ideas for temporary housing to help meet the city’s current and future needs.
“The city saw a drastic need for temporary housing,” said Knott. “There was illegal stuff going on.”
As chairman of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and a businessman involved with manufactured housing for more than 30 years, Knott had the experience to deal with the problem.
Since October 2013, when the City Council approved rules for temporary housing, more than 100 travel trailer spaces have been scraped out of vacant lots all over town.
There are 27 spaces on North Main Street and, as required by city regulations, with all hookups, Knott said.
There’s a new plot on Airport Road and 40 spaces on Orchard Lane. The largest travel trailer development is Knott’s own Sun West Mobile City, with 81 spaces just off National Parks Highway on Boyd Road.
The P&Z commission approved two more temporary sites at its last meeting.
As the name of these developments implies, they were never intended to be permanent housing.
“The developer gets a two-year permit,” Knott said, “and he can get an extension to total five years.”
But that’s all.
The transition from RV park to something else will test the developers’ creativity, but if they are like Knott, they are already thinking — at least five years down the road.
“The key is that city leaders recognized the need and stepped up and did something,” Knott said — in this case approving a type of development that had not previously been common within city limits.
As construction projects cause their own boom by bringing a number of their skilled workers to town, it is estimated that Eddy County population could double within 10 years.