Owner blames problems on tenants Trailer park is seeking county license WEST COUNTY Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills

August 04, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Arguing that residents, not the owner, are responsible for health code violations at a Harmans mobile home park, an attorney said last night that Anne Arundel County has no legal right to deny his client a license.

At a Board of Appeals hearing attended by more than 100 residents of the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park, the lawyer said the county was holding the owner, Symcha Shpak, and tenants hostage because of other renters who fail to maintain their homes.

Attorney Gabriel J. Poggi said that "150 families can be held hostage because one or two or more people don't keep up their homes to county standards."

Pages of violations cited by the Health Department include unsafe decks, deteriorating siding on trailers, tires stored under homes, high grass, stagnant water, improperly secured gas tanks, poison ivy and leaking water pipes.

The seven-member board is hearing an appeal from Mr. Shpak,

who is challenging the county's refusal to grant him a license to operate a mobile home park.

Tenants pay about $280 a month to rent an 80-foot-by-30-foot lot at the park, located off Ridge Road near the southwest side of Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Bob Pollock, the senior assistant county attorney, said Mr. Shpak has not had a license since 1989 because "he has failed to keep his park up in a safe manner."

"He just doesn't want to bother," Mr. Pollock said. "He is the only mobile home owner in Anne Arundel County who has this kind of problem. He should not have his license renewed."

But Mr. Shpak's attorney said all the problems that the owner can legally correct have been corrected, such as water leaks, poor road conditions and refuse dumped in common areas.

Mr. Shpak said he even spent $4,700 to repair 12 wooden posts that support electric meters, even though the county inspector found problems with only two.

"I just wanted to get done with it so the guy wouldn't bother me anymore," said Mr. Shpak, who complained that a county inspector has visited the park so many times that "I believe he has a home there."

Other violations, Mr. Shpak said, include handrails missing from some mobile homes, broken windows and animal waste in yards.

"The park owner cannot correct those violations," Mr. Poggi said. "The individual homes and lots are the responsibility of the individual tenants."

He said the county agreed in November to grant Mr. Shpak a license if he corrected certain problems and if he started eviction proceedings against residents who failed to correct their violations.

But Mr. Pollock said county inspectors found more problems when they went back in April -- seven pages worth.

He told the appeals board that it is Mr. Shpak's responsibility to ensure that his tenants comply with the rules of the lease, which state that county laws and health codes must be met.

During a break in the hearing, some residents said that they came to the hearing because they were worried that the county will close the park and force them to move.

"We want to save our homes," said Len Brettell, 32, who has lived at Ridgewood for six years.

Mr. Poggi played upon those fears while questioning his client: "Why don't you just evict all the people in the park so you can get a license?" he asked.

"I will do it if that's what the board wants me to do," Mr. Shpak answered, adding that many tenants have trouble paying rent. "You see on TV all the homeless people -- where will they go?"

That prompted a reply from Mr. Pollock: "I object to the editorializing on how the county is out to put people on the street. The county is not trying to do that."

The hearing is scheduled to continue Aug. 11.

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