Scores of tenants, many of them elderly and on fixed incomes, are facing eviction next month at two Jessup mobile home parks where they have lived for years.
The owners of Dennis and Ark mobile home parks on Washington Boulevard are shutting the parks down and building a new one on the property. Tenants can move to the new park, but only if they buy a new home, they say.
The county's other mobile home parks are already at or near capacity. Even if one became available, tenants say, they could not move in without having to buy a new home. Parks generally will not accept homes built before new federal standards went into effect in 1975. In Howard County, most park tenants own their homes but rent their lots.
Anxious Dennis and Ark tenants packed the monthly meeting of the county mobile home association in Savage last week to ask what could be done to help them. What they heard was not good news.
"There isno answer we can give you tonight toward solving your problem," association president Robert Force of Deep Run told the standing-room-only crowd.
"It's one of the major issues I'll check on," state Sen. Thomas M. Yeager, D-13,said.
County Council chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, said it is "outrageous that year after year the county has neglected the needs of mobile home owners."
Gray wants the county to help finance a homeowners' cooperative that would enable mobile home owners to buy their lots and not be "constantly in crisis." He asked that people interested in forming a cooperative let him know within six months.
"This situation in which homeowners don't know theirfate from month to month cannot continue," Gray said, adding that hewill be looking at legislative changes to "help keep these people from living in fear."
It may not come soon enough for some. "They are taking away my home," one longtime park resident said. "It may not be much to some people, but it's my home."
The alternative of buying a new or used mobile home that conforms to the federal Housing andUrban Development Department standards is no alternative at all, residents say. They say they simply cannot afford to buy a new home at this stage of their lives.
Everyone -- about 60 tenants in Dennis and 20 tenants in Ark Mobile Home Park next door -- is affected, residents say.
Gilbert A. Mobley, who owns the parks jointly with his wife, Joyce, refused to discuss the situation. If given written questions, he would provide a written response a day or more later, he said.
Residents received word of their impending eviction in a July 22"Dear Tenant" letter in which Mobley told tenants he would not be renewing their leases because "Dennis Mobile Home Park Operating Co. Inc. will be going out of business."
Mobley told tenants to "Please vacate the premises on or before September 1, 1991," adding that theymight want to "contact the new landlords," Brentwood Manor Inc., to apply for space in the park.
According to court documents, Mobley and his wife borrowed $2.5 million from a Laurel bank Feb. 15 to construct 175 lots at Brentwood Manor.
The couple also has spent $360,000 in assorted fees and another $375,00 in "soft costs" to develop the new park and connect it to the county water and sewer system, court documents say.
Six years ago, the county accused the Mobleys -- who have owned Ark since 1977 and Dennis since 1983 -- of dumping rawsewage from their parks into Dorsey Run Stream. The county obtained a consent order in Circuit Court ordering the parks to hook up to city water and sewer within six months.
In January, the county filed civil and criminal contempt papers against the Mobleys for failing tocomply with the Dec. 16, 1985, consent agreement. A month later the Mobleys signed the deed of trust for Brentwood Manor. They have sincebeen granted a continuance on the court case, but no date has been set.
By closing the old parks' septic system and connecting the newone with county water and sewer, the Mobleys will have complied withthe consent agreement.
What riles residents, they say, is that Mobley won't accept their homes in the new park being built on the property because the homes fail to meet federal standards.
What he hasoffered instead, tenants say, is to sell them "a good used home."
Mobley and his wife operate a mobile home sales operation, Eastern Homes Inc., adjacent to the 43-acre mobile home site they are developing.
William Matthews, 69, a park resident since 1981, said Mobley offered to sell him a used trailer and make the payments low enough for Matthews to handle. But Matthews isn't buying.
"I'm too old to take on a $15,000 to $20,000 debt," he says.
Jean Snyder, who has lived in the Ark park since she was widowed 19 years ago, is another who says she cannot afford the new park. Snyder said she lives on a fixed income based on a disability. She said the cheapest used home Mobley offered her was $16,000.