Residents bitter over offer to leave mobile home park

Ev-Mar residents and local politicians agree that the cash incentives to leave the Savage site before it's redeveloped are too low.

July 04, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

The heirs of the estates that own Ev-Mar Mobile Home Park in Savage expect to split its anticipated $3.6 million sale price once it closes next year, but the few remaining residents of the decaying property bitterly complain they're being offered a pittance to move.

The 18 or 19 residents of the wooded, 6.8-acre mobile home park are being offered $500 to leave by the scheduled June 1 closing date. They'll get up to $1,600 more if they agree to leave early, by Sept. 30, plus either $1,500 if they sell their old trailer to the park's owners, or $7,500 if they move their trailer elsewhere.

"This stinks. I want to make sure that's out," resident Kalvin Evans announced at a meeting of residents in the Savage Senior Center on Thursday night, after Annapolis attorney Walter S.B. Childs said, "I have a checkbook with me now" to pay the first $500 to anyone at the meeting who signed up to leave.

One woman raised her hand to volunteer. But the other residents yelled angrily at Childs, who represents the estate of the late Henry E. Meyn, a co-owner of Ev-Mar.

"That little bit of money you giving away -- that ain't nothing," said Marvin F. James, 49, a 10-year park resident. "I paid $21,000 for my trailer and you talking about $500. It's just not fair."

Ann McAndrews said she owes $59,000 for her double-wide home, and said moving expenses for their homes -- if they're new enough to move and if they can find another plot -- could be as high as $25,000.

Because of the skyrocketing value of land, many of Howard County's mobile home parks are under pressure to redevelop, removing a prime source of affordable housing. Pfisters park on U.S. 1 near Ev-Mar is also closing, and Aladdin Village, a larger park at U.S. 1 and Route 175, is expected to close for redevelopment within the next few years.

Howard County housing administrator Leonard S. Vaughan told the gathering of about 25 people that the county could help with up to $2,500 in additional moving expenses, and federal rent subsidies are available for low-income residents who cannot afford an apartment.

But former park resident Lee Brangan, 66, said, "This should not fall on Mr. Vaughan and the county." The sale price is high enough, he said, for the heirs to pay the residents more.

"There should be no penalty to any of these people here. It shouldn't cost people a dime," said resident Vince Patrick.

Failed negotiations

The residents, led by Patrick, tried to form a co-op to buy the land they live on and forestall redevelopment, but the owners have refused to negotiate with them.

Childs said he had once offered the residents $15,000 each to move, but was rebuffed.

Patrick said that offer came during the heat of negotiations for selling the park to the residents' co-op and was part of an effort to gain their support for the townhouse rezoning.

Park upkeep

Residents also complained about conditions in the park, where trash, debris and abandoned trailers litter the landscape.

"You're slumlords," an angry Waverly Bryant shouted. "I don't want Section 8 [federal rent subsidies]. ... You ought to be paying us to live there."

Childs replied, "I'm not pretending it's wonderful," and later said, "We're not here to have a shouting match."

Representatives of the Ev-Mar owners' estates sought rezoning last year that would have allowed townhouses to be built on the site, but developer Paul Revelle has said he'll wait until the park closes before making specific plans for the land, which is surrounded by large, expensive, detached single-family homes.

`Absolutely appalled'

The meeting also drew the interest of area politicians and two community groups, the North Laurel Civic Association and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now(ACORN).

Donna Thewes, treasurer of the Laurel group, admonished Childs, saying, "We're absolutely appalled at how you treat these residents."

State Sen. Sandra B. Schrader also denounced conditions at the park. She said she saw exposed electrical wiring, trash, junk, oil drums and old fire extinguishers on an informal tour. She also has toured the park with managers.

Management workers said they can't remove old trailers to which they lack legal title, but try to keep the park in good condition.

Patrick said the residents could do a better job than the workers and proposed that they get the monthly funds to do that.

Serious offer sought

Del. Frank S. Turner told Childs that the cash incentives to leave early were far too low. "I hope you come back with a serious offer in the future," he said.

County Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, who with other council members voted not to rezone the property for the owners, warned Childs that "we're not going to go away," and that park managers "need to do something" about the park's problems.

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