Redevelopment threatens mobile homes

Owner of Elkridge's Aladdin Village site has applied for rezoning

Regional

December 11, 2003|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Residents of the Aladdin Village mobile home park in Elkridge have learned, to the chagrin of many, that the future of the approximately 40-acre property probably will not include mobile homes.

The Carlyle Group, which manages Aladdin Village and owns an equity interest in it, has applied through Howard County's comprehensive rezoning process for a change to allow offices, retail space, restaurants and apartments.

"All we're doing is fitting in with the long-term plans of Howard County," said Carlyle President Ronald Singer. The West Hollywood, Calif., company operates about 30 other mobile home parks in 15 states across the country.

Mobile home parks such as Aladdin Village are an affordable option in this affluent community between Baltimore and Washington, where new homes cost an average of $300,000. But as developable land in Howard becomes scarce - and therefore more valuable - a growing number of park owners are considering more lucrative uses for their properties.

Aside from Aladdin, the county administration has recommended rezoning five mobile home parks, most of them clustered along U.S. 1 between Interstate 95 and the Anne Arundel County border. The parks could continue operating as "nonconforming uses" despite the change.

That leaves Aladdin residents who might be displaced considering their options. Despite their name, mobile homes aren't very mobile. Two-thirds of Aladdin consists of older homes, Singer said, many of which probably would be damaged during a move. And, as residents of three North Laurel parks that closed in 2001 learned, some park owners would not accept 9- or 10-year-old homes that don't conform to park rules.

During a holiday dinner at Blob's Park in Jessup on Tuesday night, Singer and the company told the residents of Aladdin's 241 units how and when Carlyle's application to rezone the property would affect them.

Preparing a master plan for the property could take five to 10 years, he said, and residents might be able to continue to live in parts of the park during that time.

Other options for the residents, he said, include moving their homes to open spots in nearby mobile home parks or selling their homes to Carlyle. Singer said his company operates at least 15 parks within an hour's drive of Aladdin, including Terrace View Mobile Estates in Anne Arundel County and others in Harford County and Stephens City, Va.

"We could facilitate people at all of these parks," he said.

His words reassured some Howard officials.

"I'm very pleased with the owners' approach to this. The biggest concern we have is the loss of the asset by the owner," said Leonard S. Vaughan, the county housing director.

"I'm hoping that the offer is more than just a gesture," he said. Purchasing the homes "makes it a lot more palatable."

Many of the approximately 300 people who attended the Aladdin meeting were upset, concerned that their homes could not be moved, that they would lose financially on their investments and that they would have to move away from jobs and excellent schools in Howard County.

"It is very devastating to us people," said Jimmie Hutchinson. The 45-year-old woman paid $43,000 for her home eight months ago because health concerns made it logical for her to downsize from her Columbia home.

Kathy Moriarity asked Singer what would be done to help senior citizens.

"Walking to their mailbox is the highlight of their day," she said.

Carole Betro, 62, and her husband, Bud, 83, were among those who said they didn't know what they would do.

"Where are you going to get a 30-year mortgage with those ages?" Carole Betro asked.

Representatives of Carlyle Group formally submitted an application for rezoning Oct. 28. The application included a concept plan that listed 75,000 square feet of office space, 140,000 square feet of retail, 21,000 square feet of restaurants, 330 apartments, 50 moderate-income units and a 140-room hotel.

Carlyle attorney Walter A. Stone said the idea for the changed use developed during meetings with county planning officials during the summer. Originally, the company wanted to gain additional commercial land to replace land that would have been lost to an expanded right of way for U.S. 1. It also considered creating something similar to nearby New Colony Village, a community of single-family homes built on leased land the way a mobile home park is.

The idea of mixed-use zoning for this park, which is on U.S. 1 near Route 175 and the entrance to Interstate 95, evolved during meetings with the planning department and was based on the recommendations for the corridor developed through the Route 1 Revitalization Study.

Councilman David A. Rakes, who represents the area and who attended the Tuesday meeting, said he supports the project. He said he hopes that county departments can help alleviate residents' concerns.

"The meeting [Tuesday] night was the first step in involving 200-plus residents in the process," he said. "It's a very exciting project."

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