Bill seeks temporary sites for trailer park residents

Measure is to aid those displaced by land sales

Howard County

September 09, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

As residents of the Ev-Mar Mobile Home Park in Savage continue their fight against eviction, a Howard County councilman has prepared legislation to allow creation of temporary trailer parks as a transitional haven for displaced people.

The bill, subject first to county Planning Board scrutiny, would change zoning laws to allow new parks within 50 feet of an existing one - but only for 15 years, with residents' stays limited to a five-year maximum.

State Sen. Sandra B. Schrader, a Howard County Republican, said she is is researching a possible General Assembly bill that could give mobile-home park residents first option on the park's land if an owner decided to sell.

The county zoning measure is designed to provide breathing room for middle- and low-income people forced out of long- established trailer parks along U.S. 1. The owners want to sell because of sharply rising land values and zoning changes, approved by the county last year, designed to spur revitalization.

"These mobile-home parks are falling like dominoes and having an adverse effect on people who can least afford it," said Councilman David A. Rakes, sponsor of the bill and an east Columbia Democrat whose district includes the 241-unit Aladdin Mobile Home Park, expected to close within five years.

Rakes said developer Wayne Newsome owns land next to Aladdin, north of Route 175, that could become a transitional park. "This is not a total answer, but it is one of several things we're trying to do," he said, noting that the current law guarantees residents only a year's notice that a park will close.

But one resident of Ev-Mar called the bill a "ridiculous" measure that won't help her family of four.

"For me to move my home costs $25,000," said Ann McAndrews, 45, who said she owes $59,000 on a double-wide home she moved to Ev-Mar last year. "Who could afford $50,000 in five years? It's not worth it."

McAndrews and the other 16 park residents want to buy the 6.8 acres and establish a cooperative, but the heirs of the land's owners refused to sell and have declared that the park will close June 30. "We're not going anywhere," she said. "We're fighting this thing."

County officials said the idea is to create a temporary haven while displaced people seek permanent quarters, perhaps in subsidized senior housing or using county programs that take time. But some longtime park residents own trailers too old to move and can't afford new units, while newer residents face huge relocation costs.

Leonard S. Vaughan, the county housing director, said he hopes park owners who want to close and redevelop would help pay substantial relocation costs.

Marsha McLaughlin, the county planning director, said she doubted that moving even a double-wide home would cost $25,000, though McAndrews said she included the costs of moving and storing furniture, utility relocation costs and motel stays during a move.

"All they're really doing is jumping from one frying pan into another," McAndrews said of Rakes' bill. "I'm looking for a place to settle down where I don't have to keep moving."

But McLaughlin said a transitional park that moves people through on annual leases does make sense for some people.

"If it's transitional, it can help a lot of people," McLaughlin said. A new, permanent park - even a co-op - would help a few.

No Planning Board hearing date for the bill has been set, she said, but "it will go soon."

Schrader has scheduled a meeting to discuss her research with Ev-Mar residents at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Savage Volunteer Fire Department.

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