New Colony hears Robey's assurances

2-year battle to buy homes may be over next month

December 12, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Six residents of New Colony Village got assurances from Howard County Executive James N. Robey on Friday that if developer Wayne Newsome does his part, their two-year wait for the freedom to sell or refinance their homes will be over by next month.

Newsome, who was not at the meeting, said later in a phone interview that the necessary documents would be signed and returned to the county by Dec. 22. Residents should be able to buy their lots by January, he said.

"Everything we have had to do at the county level has been done. It's in the hands of the developer," Robey told the residents after they explained their frustration at watching neighbors lose their homes to eviction and foreclosure. "We pushed and pushed and pushed as hard as we could," he said, adding that county housing officials would see if they could help anyone avoid foreclosure.

New Colony is a 228-unit development of manufactured homes built on land zoned for mobile home park use between Interstate 95 and U.S. 1 in Jessup. After the initial residents bought the homes and moved in, bank financing for mortgages dried up because the residents did not own the lots under their homes. They pay $460 a month in ground rent.

For the past two years, Howard County has been working to legally subdivide the land into individual house lots, which was difficult because they are too small to meet county zoning regulations.

"I can't begin to tell you the hell we have been through. It's unique, one of a kind," Robey said about the government's efforts to resolve the situation. Every time progress was made, Robey said, more technical legal problems would crop up.

Residents said they knew there was friction between county officials and Newsome, but often felt adrift between them, unsure whom to believe.

"We were hearing stories and remarks from all parties," said resident Tina Sakash. "It was like beating our heads against the wall."

Susie Hartlaub said new eviction notices were posted this week, upsetting her yet again.

"It's heartbreaking. It's the worst thing I've ever been through, to see the [eviction] stickers on the doors," she said.

Said Robey: "I'm sorry it took so long. I'm sorry that so many people have had to suffer through the process, but I'm not sorry we did it right. I'll never be sorry for that."

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