Mobile home park fights license denial

March 22, 1994|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Sun Staff Writer

A mobile home park's owner is going to Anne Arundel Circuit Court after the county Board of Appeals threw out his licensing case because he missed a deadline.

Symcha Shpak, who owns the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park, has been operating without a county permit since 1989, said Robert M. Pollock, assistant county attorney.

County health officials have refused to approve the license, citing health code violations such as the owner letting poison ivy grow in a common area and operating without a license, while some tenants allowed animal waste and trash to accumulate in their yards.

The 150-home park is located off Ridge Road near Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Tenants own their mobile homes but pay about $300 a month to rent 80-by-30-foot lots.

Chain-link fences flank narrow roads at the park. Dogs run in yards crowded with toys and equipment. Some animals run loose. Yesterday, water flowed from underneath one home and streamed down a road.

In a Sept. 10, 1992, letter to Mr. Shpak, Henry T. Ferrel, assistant director of the county's Department of Inspections and Permits, said the county would not give the park a license. However, the letter was not postmarked until Sept. 16. Mr. Shpak appealed two weeks later, and the Board of Appeals held hearings last August.

Earlier this month the board voted 4-2, with one abstention, to dismiss the appeal because it was not filed within the 15-day appeal period.

Mr. Shpak has asked the court to review his appeal's dismissal.

William C. Edmonston and Joseph A. Johnson, the dissenting board members, said the county cut short Mr. Shpak's appeal period by mailing the denial letter late, giving him only six days to respond.

"We noted our appeal within 15 days of the postmark," Gabriel J. Poggi, Mr. Shpak's lawyer, said yesterday.

In their dissenting opinion, Mr. Edmonston and Mr. Johnson said: "It is clear from the testimony that the owner/operator of this mobile home park is being held accountable for the alleged infractions of the people who reside in the park and that these infractions are beyond the scope and control of the operator of the park."

Mr. Poggi said Mr. Shpak cannot fix violations that are the responsibility of individual tenants, because he does not have the right to enter their property.

These violations include broken skirtings around the trailer homes and waste in the yards.

Mr. Shpak has evicted several tenants who refused to clean up their own violations, Mr. Poggi said. But one of the county's violations lists problems in 90 lots, he said, and his client is not going to evict 90 families.

On the license question, Mr. Poggi said, "We believe we have a de facto license." He said the $750 license fee has been paid each year and the county has always cashed the check.

Health department spokeswoman Evelyn Stein said her department has asked the county to take legal action against Mr. Shpak.

"There is just a continuous record of malfunctions at the trailer park," she said. "They fix one thing in one location, and things break down in another."

Mr. Pollock said Friday that his office is considering what sort of legal action to take. "Our goal is to make him get the park cleaned up," Mr. Pollock said.

It is possible a judge might give temporary title to the park to an agent, such as the county, allowing the agent to collect rents and fix violations, he said.

However, Mr. Pollock said, "The county certainly doesn't want to be in the mobile home park business."

A park resident, asking not to be identified for fear of eviction, said Mr. Shpak routinely ignores problems such as water main leaks that buckle roads and flood yards.

However, the resident also said some tenants are guilty of health code violations and should clean up their lots or be evicted.

Another tenant said residents didn't have water for a week and a half in January. He said he owes $18,000 on his mobile home and cannot leave the park because he has no other place to put it.

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