Lou Ann Prosack has enough money to buy a newer, bigger mobile home that the owner of the Ark and Dennis mobile home parks says she needs to stay in the area where she has lived for 25 years.
"I'm looking forward to it because it's an opportunity to upgrade a bit," Prosack said last night. She took early retirement from AT&T eight years ago and now works as a waitress in a nearby restaurant in Jessup.
But many other residents of the Ark and Dennis mobile home parks struggle to pay the monthly costs of their aging "12-wide" homes and the ground rent. They can't even entertain the thought of putting out more money for 14-foot-wide homes now being required by the parks' owner.
Dozens of families at the mobile home parks that are next to each other on U.S. 1 in Jessup fear that their lack of money means they'll be forced to give up their homes.
Parks don't accept 12-wides these days because those units are becoming obsolete and parks want to upgrade. Residents at Ark and Dennis are afraid and angry that the owner of the mobile home park is forcing them out -- and there's nowhere to go.
"It just doesn't seem fair that I've been in there for 23 years. Some have been in there 30 years and our homes are being taken from us," said Madge Kellner.
The owner of the mobile home parks, Gilbert A. Mobley, is trying to modernize his properties, which are now called the Brentwood Park Mobile Home Community, with paved roads and new water and sewer systems. The sewer system would replace the old one that has kept him in trouble with Howard County regulators since raw sewage began to flow onto U.S. 1 in 1985.
Mobley, who could not be reached for comment, sent a letter to residents July 22, telling them he would not renew their leases and they would have to leave by Sept. 1 because the park was going out of business. He said they might want to contact the "new landlord," Brentwood Park, which he owns with his wife on the same land.
County consumer affairs administrator Stephen D. Hannan met Mobley yesterday and persuaded him not to evict anyone on Sept. 1, which provides a temporary reprieve but leaves residents uncertain about their futures.
Hannan and other county and state officials then met with 40 mobile home owners -- there are 60 at Dennis and 20 at Ark -- to brainstorm on steps that can be taken to help tenants.
The meeting at the Savage branch of the Howard County Public Library was called by County Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray and attended by state Sen. Thomas Yeager, D-Howard; Del. Marty Madden, R-Howard; Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, and other county officials.
One resident, an employee of the county public school system, told the officials that Mobley, who also sells mobile homes for his remodeled development, refused to help her finance a new home.
"The one we want, he won't cut a deal for," she said. "I want to move into the new park. I want to stay in the area. I want to stay with the school board. But he won't cut a deal."
Gray said he would seek emergency legislation to provide grants and loans to tenants to help them either buy homes at the new park or relocate.
Pendergrass said the longtime tenants should be allowed to stay under some sort of grandfather provision.
Yeager suggested that the county pressure Mobley by enforcing every possible minor violation. He said Mobley may be breaking leases illegally.