County threatening to close mobile home park WEST COUNTY -- Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills

July 20, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Charging that the owner of a mobile home park in Harmans has continually failed to keep his property up to code, Anne Arundel County inspectors say they may shut it down and force 150 families living there to move.

"They would have to go someplace else," said Bob Pollock, the senior assistant county attorney. "The people are a concern, but the county simply can't allow a facility like this to remain open without a license."

Numerous violations cited by the health department include bare wires from a transformer, unsafe decks, deteriorating siding on trailers, tires stored under homes, high grass, stagnant water, improperly secured gas tanks, poison ivy and water leaks.

The county has refused to grant Symcha Shpak, owner of the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park, a license to operate since 1991. Mr. Shpak is scheduled to challenge that decision Aug. 2 before the Board of Appeals.

If the county wins its case, Mr. Pollock said officials may start the legal work to shut down the park, located off Ridge Road near the southwest side of Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The state already has said it would like to buy the park and close it, because it is so close to the BWI flight paths that the noise level is unacceptably high. Maryland Aviation Administration officials announced their intention last year, but said it may take at least five years to get the $9 million to buy the land and relocate the residents.

Mr. Shpak, who lives on the Eastern Shore, did not return repeated messages left last week with his secretary. And his Glen Burnie lawyer, Gabriel J. Poggi, did not return calls to his office.

But in letters sent to county inspectors, on file at the Board of Appeals, Mr. Poggi complained that the three pages of violations cited are not his "statutory responsibility."

Mr. Poggi argued that many violations cited do not exist, and that any problems "are the responsibility of individual homeowners who have been duly notified of the alleged violations."

Mr. Pollock disagreed. "He's saying, 'I didn't do this, the tenants did.' What kind of an excuse is that?

"Each time the inspectors go out, there are more problems," Mr. Pollock said. "There are several pages of violations -- a plethora of things."

But in an April letter, Mr. Poggi claimed his client has complied with an agreement reached with the county in November.

"Frankly, we are hard-pressed to understand why he has not received the license for the trailer park to date," the attorney wrote in a letter to Steven P. Witt, the county's director of the Division of Community and Environmental Health.

In an interview, Mr. Witt said the owner did make some progress, but new violations were found upon reinspection.

"That is a continuation of the problem," he said. "It is not a good faith effort in complying with the code.We do not consider any of them to be emergencies," Mr. Witt added. "But we do consider some of the violations to be safety hazards."

Residents of the park approached for interviews declined to comment. Marie Delano, president of the Anne Arundel County Mobile Home Owners Association and a resident of Ridgewood, also would not consent to an interview.

The treasurer of the association, Tony Chisari, said residents are too scared to talk. Mr. Chisari, who does not live in Ridgewood, declined to say which park he lives in.

Instead of closing Ridgewood, Mr. Chisari said, the county should set up an escrow account so residents could pay their monthly rent, from $280 to $315, to the government instead of the owner.

"What is going to happen to the people if the county closes the park?" he asked, referring to the county's ban on new mobile home parks or expansion of existing ones. "Where are they going to go?"

He agreed that the park needed to be fixed up, saying "people shouldn't have to live in these conditions," but he also blamed the county for its moratorium on new parks, saying the policy created a monopoly that prevents residents from going any place else.

To make matters worse, Mr. Chisari said, the owner may lack any incentive to fix up the park because he is negotiating with the state.

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