Ev-Mar Mobile Village in Savage is to close

Residents, who had hoped for a cooperative, get notice

May 12, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Residents of Ev-Mar Mobile Village in Savage, who had hopes of organizing a housing cooperative so they could own the land under their homes, have received notice that the park will be closed.

Of the approximately 30 families who once lived at the park along Gorman Road, fewer than 20 are left, said Vince Patrick, who spearheaded the cooperative effort. He and some of his neighbors hoped to purchase the land, own shares and operate the park themselves.

Since 1997, the 6.8-acre property has been embroiled in a dispute over ownership by its heirs. During last year's countywide comprehensive rezoning, representatives of the estates petitioned to change the mobile-home zoning to a district that allows townhouses.

Park residents opposed the request, however, because of their desire to purchase the property themselves. As a result, the Howard County Council denied the rezoning request in February.

The letters announcing the closure, received last week, stated that residents could continue to live at the park under the terms of their leases until June 1 next year - more than the year's notice mandated by state law. However, those who opposed the rezoning or the park's closing would be ineligible for a $2,000 payment to move.

"We want to encourage people to be cooperative as opposed to being uncooperative," said attorney Walter Childs, who represents one of the estates.

Patrick said he is worried by that clause. "It has the stench of retribution," he said, adding that the group is also exploring other options, including legal action.

Leonard S. Vaughan, county housing director, said the language "stuck out like a sore thumb," but the attorneys may be within their rights.

"This is something being offered by the park as a private offering. They can offer what they choose to offer," he said.

Residents who qualify for the $2,000 must sign the agreement before Aug. 3. The agreement stipulates that homes and other personal property must be removed before payment is issued.

"The sum would not be paid if we have to haul off the trailers," Childs said.

Patrick said a group of residents formed a cooperative association and entered a bid, but it was rejected by the estates' representatives. The April 29 letter stated the property was already under contract.

Developer Paul Revelle said he and two partners have a contract on the property, but the group has no immediate plans. "What we want to do is let the park closure procedure take its course," he said. "Later, after the park is closed, we'll decide what we're going to do."

Patrick said he has not abandoned hopes for the cooperative.

"We just don't know what they're doing, so it's hard to make a decision one way or the other," he said. He said he knows as a researcher at University of Maryland "one can't make a decision in this climate of partial and incomplete information."

Vaughan, the county housing director, and representatives of Ev-Mar's owners have scheduled an appointment to discuss the property this week. Residents said they plan to attend the county Housing and Community Development Board meeting Thursday, where relocation plans will be discussed.

Concentrated in the U.S. 1 corridor, mobile homes are a source of affordable housing given Howard County's skyrocketing land values. Ev-Mar is the second of three parks whose owners applied for new zoning through the comprehensive rezoning process to announce its closure.

Most residents of Pfister's Mobile Home Park in North Laurel have agreed to move by June, Vaughan said, although housing officials are trying to find alternate arrangements for a few people.

Owners there promised $10,000 to people who agreed to move by June 30. All but about six families have accepted that offer, Vaughan said.

He added that the county was able to offer relocation grants of up to $2,500 to some Pfister residents. A similar amount may be available for some Ev-Mar residents, he said.

"We're just sort of trying to deal with what's happening," Vaughan said.

So is Ann McAndrews, 44, who moved into a three-bedroom double-wide home in Ev-Mar last year - after the attorneys had applied for rezoning. She can't find a place in other parks for her trailer.

"We have good people living here," she said. "Their only crime is that they can't afford a $200,000 home."

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