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Ruling Opens Door to Rolling Homes

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PITTSBORO — Your newest neighbors may arrive on two sets of wheels-- one car and one house. The State Supreme Court has ruled that just because a home comes in on wheels doesn't mean it's mobile. It's a Chatham County case, but the high court ruling could open up neighborhoods across the state to modular homes.

Like many neighborhoods, the Brookwood subdivision in Raleigh could be impacted by the ruling. Neighbors here have gotten a temporary restraining order halting construction on one home. They claim it's a mobile home or trailer, which violates the subdivision's covenant.

The owner argues it's a modular home. If the Chatham County case has any bearing, this house and others like it, will have a legal right to stay.

After a three year battle, Edward Rankin now has the backing of the state's highest court. His contention all along was that his 2,100 square foot ranch style home sits on a concrete foundation with brick facing and meets the same building code as every other home in the subdivision. His was just less expensive.

Jordan Woods' residents like Vance Reece didn't react very neighborly when Rankin's home arrived in 1995. Two sections were towed in by a truck. Opponents argued that it looked and traveled just like a trailer, and it didn't belong, because it could drag down property property values.

"It was not a personal matter at all," Reece says. "It was just a matter of what we thought was in violation of our covenants."

Despite the hard fought court victory, Rankin and his wife plan to sell their embattled home. They will leave the neighborhood with a mixture of satisfaction and bitterness.

"I feel, number one, vindicated," Rankin explains. "Number two, I'm a little bit tickled, which I shouldn't be, that all these people who've been pushing it are on the bottom end of the stick."

Rankin's home, the Brookwood home, and others like them have fueled the debate over mobile versus modular homes. One suspected impact of the supreme court ruling is that homeowners associations could be forced to rewrite their covenants to place even more specific guidelines on the type of homes that are allowed.

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Cullen Browder, Reporter
Kerrie Hudzinski, Web Editor

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