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Regency Trailer Park's plans to sell will force residents to leave

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 | 8:39 p.m. CDT; updated 11:31 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Lexi Brown, 5, walks inside her home at Lot 246 at the Columbia Regency mobile home park. Lexi lives with her three siblings, mother and grandmother. Her mother, Melissa Dinwiddie, wants to know when she and her children will be forced to leave their home. "They need to tell us something," she said.

COLUMBIA — Over the past few months, Wilson Gallup and Stacey Coleman have been watching as trailers have been moved out of the park where they live. But they thought the rumors were just that — rumors. 

Maintenance and other park workers told them Columbia Regency Mobile Home Park was evicting tenants because of violations or overdue back rent. That was enough of an explanation for them, and the couple gave it little more thought.

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It wasn’t until a few days ago, when neighbors began to stop by to ask if the couple had heard the news, that the two began to worry.

They now know that their lives, along with the lives of more than 200 other residents of the run-down mobile home park in southeast Columbia, are about to be uprooted.

Last month, Crockett Engineering Consultants, on behalf of Regency of Missouri Inc., submitted plans to the city's Planning and Zoning Commission to rezone the property and sell it to Aspen Heights, a Texas-based student housing development company. The plans will likely be approved by City Council on Oct. 17, said City Planner Steve MacIntyre, after which Regency is legally obliged to give residents 120 days to vacate.

Residents learned about it from local news reports, but there's been no official word.

Back in January, the Missourian reported on the decrepit and deplorable conditions of Regency, a 278-lot trailer park owned by the Churchill Group of Carbondale, Colo. Residents faced astronomical electric bills, unsafe living conditions and the highest lot-rent in the city. 

Now, after news of the plan has spread from lot to lot, residents are scrambling to find the money necessary to move their trailers — a service that can cost up to $3,000.

“I can picture there’s gonna be a lot of people out here, just rippin’ what they can,” Gallup said, smoking a cigarette and manning the shish kebabs cooking in the small red grill atop his wooden porch on Lot 225. “The scrap metal and stuff.”

Earlier this year, Gallup worked a total of four weeks for Regency as the company’s maintenance man.  Now, he and Coleman live on disability income. The couple also has four children, two of whom have disabilities.

“I realize that the college kids need a place to live, too, but, at the same time – they’re pushing out the poor people,” he said. 

He said it took him and Coleman almost a year to pay off their $3,000 trailer.

“With four kids,” Coleman added. “If we can’t move it, then we lose everything.”

Their 7-year-old son Jesse swaggered outside the trailer Monday, his face covered in barbecue sauce.

“All these kids are going to be ripped out of their schools. They’re going to lose their teachers, and they’re going to lose their friends,” Coleman said. 

A half hour later, Richard Nolte was passing a petition among a group of residents seated in lawn chairs on Lot 219. He handed out the phone number of Michael Carney, a Missouri legal-aid attorney, and urged residents to take action.

“I want to file a suit against the city for five hundred million dollars,” he shouted at the top of his lungs, pointing to a recent violation notice he received from the city of Columbia. “And I’m mad as hell.”

Nolte drove away a few minutes later to petition more residents, and Wayne Martie waved goodbye.

“Better go out and raise some Cain somewhere else, son,” he called to him.

Like Wilson, Martie worked maintenance for Regency but lasted only a few weeks. Like Wilson, he and his wife are on a fixed income. And like Wilson, this will be his second time facing a forced eviction from a Columbia trailer park.

When Regency sells, it will mark the fourth time a trailer park has shut down in Columbia since 2000, with the most recent being Crestvale Mobile Home Park on South Providence Road in 2004. Martie was a resident at Crestvale during the forced evictions and is now experiencing unpleasant deja vu.  

The whole ordeal is getting on his nerves.

He’s lived at Regency long enough to remember when the pool was open during the summer, when things were better ... but that was almost five years ago.  

His wife has been obsessively re-reading the small legal notice from a local paper announcing the park’s rezoning, and she asks him how they’re going to make the move happen. How they’re going to get out of the park.

He tells her, simply, to have a positive attitude. That this ain’t nothing new. He’s a damn Marine, and he’s not afraid of anything.

Martie is 55 and has shoulder-length, thinning brown hair and fading eyesight. But his energy is obvious. A retired plumber, he collects junk during the day, scrap metals and such — anything to make some cash to supplement the $300 a month he gets from the government.

“Maybe it’ll be for the best,” he said, standing beside the pothole-ridden street in front of his trailer. “But the way we look at it, it’s not, because we’re the ones that’re gonna have to come up with the money to move.” 

Martie says that he and others can't find any organizations willing to help. Someone with the city has urged him and other residents to show up for the Planning and Zoning Commission's public hearing on Sept. 22, where they'll be given a chance to be heard. There will also be information about possible avenues of assistance. He shakes his head, discouraged by the odds.

Coleman shared his pessimism. 

"I don't know that I want to go because I don't know that us little peons are going to be able to save anything," she said.

Neighborhood Response Coordinator Bill Cantin said feelings are mixed among members of the Office of Neighborhood Services. Many inspectors are happy to see the park go, but everyone is well aware that the residents of the park are in a dire situation, with little help available from the city of Columbia, he said. 

"A lot of the other parks won't accept some of the trailers in Regency," he explained, because they're too old and violate Missouri statutes pertaining to mobile homes.

Cantin says he asked a coalition of basic service providers a few months back what measures are in place for mobile home residents in this exact situation.

"There's just nothing. Just nothing," he said. "It's a sad state of affairs."

Mayor Bob McDavid did not respond to emails asking for a comment, and the Churchill Group did not answer phone calls. The park's current manager said he could not comment.

The impending mass eviction and quick land sale is nothing new for Churchill. According to previous Missourian reporting, the company is known for packing up and moving when city or state agencies begin to turn up the heat through fines and investigations. In 2009, the Regency in Louisville, Ky., shut down rather than install a necessary electrical upgrade in its park, giving residents 30 days to vacate.  

That same year, two Regency locations in Iowa were investigated and fined for various health violations, and the company issued mass evictions to residents shortly after. A majority of those evictions were overturned in court because Regency failed to give residents proper notice. 

It has also faced heavy criticism around the country for not giving residents proper titles to their homes.

After having to resort to a lawyer to fight Regency for the title to their trailer last year, Bill McNeil and Patty Perkins recently became owners of their home in Columbia Regency. But they don't have the money to move it.

It took them five years to pay off the $7,000 trailer. "I got gasoline, and I got a match," McNeil said, in a half-joking tone. "I'll just burn it down and walk away from it."

Shirtless and in tattered pajama pants, McNeill surveyed the inside of his trailer Monday evening. He looked at the walls covered with pictures of family and friends. He looked at his dogs relaxing on the couch. He looked at Patty.

"Nah, I couldn't burn this thing down," he said. "I like it too much."

Perkins jumped into the conversation, her voice raised but matter-of-fact. 

"It's our home," she said.


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Comments

Mike Martin September 14, 2011 | 10:04 p.m.

If our local leadership had some cajones, they would bill park owner George Gradow for all the violations and time he's taken city officials over all these years, from cops to inspectors, and force him to pay that bill to a "tenant relocation fund" before rezoning the park and sending Barbi Benton's husband on his way.

(Yes, that's Gradow's other claim to fame. Besides being a trailer park slumlord, he's married to Hef's former Hee Haw! star wife and did time for tax evasion.)

Meanwhile, Columbia should be yelling "Hee Haw!" as this clown leaves town (but only after all his debts are paid here in full).

http://www.people.com/people/archive/art...

http://www.5280.com/blogs/2009/11/02/bar...

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett September 14, 2011 | 10:42 p.m.

Was just reading of some similar problems elsewhere. For example, here is one of the sources was reading:

http://www.advertiserdemocrat.com/node/9...

Hope the link carries.

:)

(Report Comment)
Bill Fisher September 15, 2011 | 3:24 a.m.
This comment has been removed.
Paul Allaire September 15, 2011 | 9:36 a.m.

Maybe you can explain, Bill, what separates you from the trash. And then maybe you can explain why your opinion matters.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire September 15, 2011 | 9:48 a.m.

And yes, it's such a good arrangement that the city and county have. Allow mobile home sales. Don't allow mobile homes to be put anywhere other than a mobile home park. Allow mobile home parks to be rezoned. Don't allow any new mobile home parks. Because we know the local government is always interested in your best interests. As long as your interest is in paying as much property tax and bank interest as you can afford. Or maybe just a little more...

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield September 15, 2011 | 10:24 a.m.

The handwriting has been on the wall for years: declining conditions, a push to phase out trailer parks and a big tract in an ideal location. The only surprise is that it will be redeveloped for student housing rather than retail. Buy out the old Ice Chalet property and maybe even LaCrosse Lumber, add the trailer park tract, and you've got enough room for a retail complex the size of Columbia Mall.

Like it or not, Columbia Regency's redevelopment was a matter of when rather than if. The next big tract to be redeveloped probably is Providence between Forest and Ash. For decades people have complained that prospective college students and their parents get a bad first impression when they see block after block of shanties and Section 8. The ward realignments will be a factor in that redevelopment.

(Report Comment)
Joy Mayer September 15, 2011 | 11:11 a.m.

A comment from Bill Fisher was deleted because it violated our comment policy (available here: http://www.columbiamissourian.com/p/miss...)

Unfortunately, Paul Allaire's first comment above (the one from 9:36) now doesn't appear in its original context. Sorry about that, Paul.

We hope to be able to display a line indicating when a comment was removed and are working to fix a glitch in our system that's preventing that.

Thanks to the rest of you for the conversation.

— Joy Mayer, director of community outreach, Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin September 15, 2011 | 11:24 a.m.

Bill Fisher's comment should have been left up. Though it was nasty and callous, it brings up an important point.

Speaking from 20 years of experience in rental property management, if the landlord is going to continue to accept rents from his tenants, and not evict them for creating whatever hazardous or unsafe condition Bill thinks they've created, then he is just as responsible -- if not moreso -- for the mess.

He's the one getting the city notices; he's the one who owns the land; he's the service provider who should be responsible for maintaining decent living conditions for the law-abiding, rent-paying tenants he does have.

If he's not getting rid of the bad ones, and letting conditions slide, then that's his fault, not theirs.

The bigger tragedy, I think, is that absentee landlord Gradow will probably be rewarded for letting the place suffer without reimbursing the city and his tenants for all the problems they've had.

That money should go into a tenant relocation fund, and the rezoning -- which should lawfully occur if appropriate -- should come with an on-the-record censure from the City Council to Mr. Gradow.

(What's more, for the life of me I can't see how little ones like the girl in the picture above are the bad "white trash" Bill Fisher sees.)

(Report Comment)
Sally Willis September 15, 2011 | 11:51 a.m.

I hate to say it but that place is nasty. I'm not sure why anyone would want to live like that, I would think this would be a way out for some of those people. I also agree that some responsibility of the living conditions in the park should be burdened by those living there. Also cigarettes are very expensive how does someone living on disability income afford them? And so many of these people are young, do any of them work??

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire September 15, 2011 | 12:17 p.m.

Sally, I just read almost every one of your handful of comments and found them to be consistently distasteful, offensive, and lacking in thought.

(Report Comment)
Sally Willis September 15, 2011 | 12:21 p.m.

@ Paul I was just asking. Is it wrong to question these things, especially since I'm paying my tax dollars?

(Report Comment)
Sally Willis September 15, 2011 | 12:27 p.m.

@ Pual did I step on your turf?

(Report Comment)
Sally Willis September 15, 2011 | 1:17 p.m.

Paul mobile homes can be placed in parks or on private land. Where do you think they should be placed? Maybe we could just line Broadway with them, or we can even put them in our neighborhoods. There are some nice parks in this town, A friend of mine lives in one on Brown Station Rd. Another is on Vandiver, I think a lot of that has to do with the residents taking pride in their neighborhoods and taking care of them. This one unparticular is an eyesore take a drive through it some time.

(Report Comment)
Bill Cantin September 15, 2011 | 1:18 p.m.

Hi--this is Bill Cantin with the Office of Neighborhood Services. I just wanted to clarify my statement regarding the situation at Columbia Regency. ONS has spent a great deal of time working with individuals and property owners in Regency in an attempt to improve the situation, and have received a great deal of cooperation. Clearly property and health code violations remain, and ONS will continue to address them until they are abated. If by attempting to make this point I gave the impression that ONS is happy that the park may be closing, I apologize, for that was not my intent. My heart goes out to those families who are potentially being displaced, and I would encourage anyone with questions to please contact me at (573) 874-7248 or bpcantin@gocolumbiamo.com.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire September 15, 2011 | 1:30 p.m.

Often the opposition to mobile homes is orchestrated by property owners who are jealous because the value of a mobile home is considerably lower than a house of equal size. Since the amount of property taxes collected is allegedly tied to the value of a property, some people feel that people in mobile homes are not paying their fair share. Other opposition comes from people who feel that a mobile home near theirs diminishes their property value. I don't have much, if any sympathy with that. Cities and counties generally address these concerns by disallowing mobile homes outside of designated parks and then limit the number of parks by whatever means necessary, which undoubtedly forces up the lot rents and the value of the mobile home park, which is also taxed, to the point where there is less difference between the amount that one would spend for either. If the respective governments had any sort of moral responsibility, they would either disallow further sales of new mobile homes in their boundaries, allow for the creation of new mobile home parks, or zone some areas so that individuals are allowed to relocate mobile homes onto their own parcels. But they don't. They generally continue tightening the rules against mobile homes. Often someone buys a mobile home or a parcel and has a plan to move it to their parcel or a parcel in a few years and then finds the rules have been changed after they have already made their investment, which to me represents a "taking" from the property owner.

I have had this experience and have seen other people have the same repeatedly. I actually bought two lots in a lake development where later some scumbag got elected to a petty office and as far as I could tell he was mentally ill, and had a grudge against every lot owner who was not already living in the area. The area was a designated for mobile homes and most of the houses in the development were that. The individual set up some type of incorporation, which allowed him to ignore the county set back requirements and create his own. I got a great deal on the two lots because the county setback requirements dictated that the maximum length of my mobile home as less than sixty feet. This individual had great aspirations for the park/city and altered the setbacks to achieve his goal. He then had a law made so that the minimum size mobile home that I could put on my lot was 14 by 70 and required that any mobile home that be put in be ten years old or newer.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire September 15, 2011 | 1:54 p.m.

My mobile home had been in the neighboring county. I was forced to choose that location because the county where my mobile home was located had made it illegal for me to move my mobile home to any land which I may have bought in that county. When counties do this they do not grandfather mobile homes unless they are already on the property that someone intends to move them to. The neighboring county where the lots were also had just made it a requirement that I either needed forty acres or a double wide if I didn't want to put the mobile home in an incorporated area. When I gave my complaints to the elected officials they told me that since I had not already been paying taxes on the mobile home in that county, that I had no protection from these changes. Since my mobile home was in the neighboring county I had only been able to pay them the taxes on my empty lots and therefore had no alleged legal standing. The lots were sold to me for four hundred dollars apiece. In the late 1960's people paid ten thousand dollars each for them, or enough to buy a modest fixer home at that time. Many people from a larger city had bought the lots intending to move there when they retired, and had paid lot rent and taxes on their mobile homes and taxes on the lots that they had bought faithfully for thirty years, only to be told that they would not be allowed to move their mobile homes onto the lots because they weren't large enough or new enough because some disgusting pervert had been persistent enough to change the regulations. If I recall, the mobile home that he lived in also did not meet his new standards, but since it was already there everything was good for him. Most of the people allowed their land to be sold for taxes. Most of it was bought for a hundred dollars a lot by people who were already living in the park and had adjacent parcels. The "city" then forgave the back taxes, which in each case exceeded the purchase price of the property. Most of those who lost their property rights probably could have afforded fairly nice homes with what they had spent in lot rent, the cost of paying the finance on their mobile homes and on the lots that they had bought, property taxes, and such. The amount of payment someone makes when buying a mobile home is often about the same as what someone pays when buying a house. Usually someone buys a mobile home because they cannot obtain bank financing for a regular home because they don't have established credit.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett September 15, 2011 | 3:16 p.m.

(I agree with M. Martin on this topic.) The below is the sidebar from the link I provided above - same people activity elsewhere than Columbia, and I would recommend that anyone read the full article in the link, plus research on this. (M. Martin has zeroed in on the basic.)

Parent company under investigation

The Oxford Pines Regency mobile home park is owned by a company called Regency of Maine, which is headquartered in Carbondale, Colorado. That company, and similarly-named entities, such as "Regency of Texas," operate 33 trailer parks across the country under an umbrella corporation called the Churchill Group, Incorporated.

The Churchill Group is owned by 70-year-old George Gradow, who is a millionaire, a real estate developer, and an ex-con.

Gradow has been married for over 30 years to Barbara Klein, more well-known as former Hugh Hefner girlfriend and Playboy cover girl Barbi Benton.

In 2006, Gradow was sentenced to 15 months in prison for tax fraud, after he admitted to changing documents in a failed bid to fool the IRS. During the court proceedings, Gradow's lawyers argued that he suffered from anxiety and depression, and a psychiatrist testified that Gradow had seriously considered suicide. Lawyers for the IRS disputed these claims.

Gradow was released in July of 2007, and, in 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported that Gradow had listed his LA-based mansion, located in the Bel-Air district, for $17.5 million.

Over the last few months, the Churchill Group has come under investigation for fraudulent activities in both Iowa and Kansas, where a former park manager blew the whistle on a variety of illegal activities. The whistle-blower, Vernon Thorn, documented many questionable and illegal practices, including the sale of homes that the park did not actually own, failure to disclose back taxes, and rampant health and safety violations.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett September 15, 2011 | 3:21 p.m.

There are no trash children - no matter where they live. To give them that stigma is gravely in error. Any child, no matter financial standing of parent/caregiver, can reach potential in this country and become great and of substance in influencing the whole world for the better. It is never where you start out, but it is where you end up, that defines your life. Some people have to reach farther, but the successful ones never stop reaching for the good. Cut some slack on the stereotyping of children, please. They deserve better - all of them. Thank you.

:)

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire September 15, 2011 | 3:38 p.m.

In fact, the reason I bought a mobile home was because I couldn't convince anyone to cosign for a loan on an 11,000 dollar house. I'm sure that I eventually spent more than that on lot rent alone.

But back to the story. While in the service I got a call from the person I allowed to use my "home" telling me that he had gotten himself and I evicted from the park. The owner wanted to make two lots into one for a larger trailer that he owned and it was my time to go somewhere. I had bought the two lots and I had not yet learned about all the strange new zoning requirements brought about by the dirt bag who had incorporated it into a "city". I borrowed some money and took leave, driving halfway across the country in the middle of winter to rectify my new problem. Of the parks remaining in town, only two would have allowed it. This was because the county had restricted people from putting their homes on their own land and the city had halted the construction of any new parks, just as here. Of the two parks, one was full and the other was able to take it but I had to wait for one to be moved out. As the deadline approached, the lot remained occupied, forcing me to scramble across the countryside to look for another place. I was unsuccessful and I wound up storing it and eventually determined that it was not worth keeping. The person who had been living there while I was serving went through a rough time.

I worked hard, served in your nations military, paid taxes, kept the home in relatively good shape, conserved my money, made an intelligent choice to purchase not just one but two lots that were specifically designated for that size mobile home, and lost it all, mainly because people don't like the sight of mobile homes because they might indicate some sort of poverty. This, to me, indicates a kind of mental and moral poverty if not a spiritual one. I don't know what I did to have this sort of class warfare heaped on me, but I can tell you in no uncertain terms that you do NOT live in a free country. If you are one of those people who's economic circumstances dictate that you need to live in a mobile home park, you are making a mistake if you spend more than a couple of thousand dollars on your "home". If you have, you had best take up praying and figure out some sort of prayer that works.
And don't get me wrong. I have several hundred acres all of which was bought since the buying of that mobile home that I lost. So it isn't like I was stupid or poor or lazy. And some of that land is in some places that are actually fairly good, unlike here. Most of the people who look down on me over perceived economics don't have SQUAT. Maybe they have a mortgage on their mcmansion that equals it's thought value. Maybe they have the more common postage stamp yard and some car payments. Here is the order of what is a good investment Land>house>condominium>leased land condominium>almost anything you can think of>mobile home.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire September 15, 2011 | 3:39 p.m.

The county allows people to sell mobile homes to the poor and then allows the poor to be squeezed out onto the street with no consideration for where they might live or where they might put their "home". The same county regulates against mobile homes on the premise that nobody can do something that diminishes another's property value, but if that doesn't diminish the value of a mobile home I don't know what does. The codes that a mobile home must meet are not the same as what a house must meet, unless someone wants to retroactively apply a city code to your mobile home, which sometimes happens. So yes, you can place your mobile home in a park and pay usurious lot rent IF you can find a park that will accept your mobile home. And you can put it on your land IF you have land somewhere where people are allowed to have mobile homes. And god knows that it is anybody's business what you do with your land or your home except yours. Because we live in a free country your local elected officials are free to regulate anything that they want away from you, like your rights.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble September 15, 2011 | 3:54 p.m.

Is it just me, or is the entire southern part of the city being sold off to cheap-mass-housing companies from Texas? Apart from the (very serious) significance of the trailer park issue, it seems like huge swaths of town are suddenly being razed and covered with cheaply-built, massive cookie-cutter housing which pours hundreds of new cars onto every (already-congested) north-south road in the area.

The natural beauty and character of the city are taking a big hit. The infrastructure is taking a big hit. And the proceeds from these developments are flying out of state, as though Columbia's some kind of developing country being exploited from abroad.

This is not making our town a better place. And a decade from now, when the cheaply-built buildings are wearing out and this kind of ugly mass development has sprung up elsewhere, these will be the run-down blights on what was an attractive, natural part of town.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire September 15, 2011 | 4:25 p.m.

No Kevin, all the land should be consolidated into the hands of a few and individuals should not be allowed the means to possess any of it, particularly not if they are trailer trash, because they are not as good as you or I. We all know that the larger developers and slumlords really care and will not allow for any type of construction that appears as if you or I could afford it because that might decrease somebody's property values or cut tax revenue. Also, it is much harder to collect bribes and extortion from a large pool of potential payees. Somebody might complain. When the money is consolidated into the hands of a few nobody will be allowed to dot the countryside with a variety of eyesores. We will only have great big monotonous ones and the city will have less work finding who to lean on. They will be able to jack the rents so high that everyone's property value will improve. And just think of how much metal we can ship to the steel mills in China. They should probably also go ahead and make it illegal to work on your own house too.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett September 16, 2011 | 9:11 a.m.

@"I worked hard, served in your nations military, paid taxes, kept the home in relatively good shape, conserved my money, made an intelligent choice to purchase not just one but two lots that were specifically designated for that size mobile home, and lost it all, mainly because people don't like the sight of mobile homes because they might indicate some sort of poverty."

Thank for your service to our country. You are an honest person who pays taxes, and you deserve better treatment than you received. I can say, knowing that there are those who use deceptive means to collect government checks, and they do not pay property tax on their house, but complain all the time about property owners who do pay taxes, and they use the community services that taxpayers support in payment with the property taxes, as if officers or anyone/anything else are their own private slaves to promote their own hateful agendas. Racist remarks and remarks like "trailer trash." Please do not be offended when someone behaves like that. When you have been honest and done the right thing. The people who say and do things are the ones that have it on them, not you. It's not right of them, I know - but they either do not know better or do not care - and one of the rationalizations is as good as the other for them - but there is no justification for that sort of behavior. People in trailer courts could pay more taxes than the people looking down on them in houses, and people in trailer courts could be working much harder than those who sit up and draw government checks and try to "put on the dog" by being mean to others and about others. I have lived in a trailer, years ago - and I still have two very good friends who live in trailers. Most people choose their friends by virtue, and not by the airs someone tries to put on, about materialistic things. I believe, having read about this property owner in several places, that he should be investigated. For the sake of honest, hard-working tenants who deserve better for their hard-earned money and taxes.

: )

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire September 16, 2011 | 11:28 a.m.

Thanks for the kind words, Bunny. This is not about me...

What this is about is the several hundred people or possibly several hundred families who are essentially being given the shaft by their local government. Someone was allowed to sell them a house which they will effectively not be able to use or even keep. The owner of the park is not to blame. He is within his rights to sell it to an agency that is within it's rights to build apartments for students to rent.

The fault is with local governments that disallow people from placing their homes on their own land and that disallow developers from creating a place to put them. It isn't about me being out eight hundred bucks for a couple of nicely paved and landscaped lots. It's about the unfortunate individual who paid 20,000 for them at a time when that money was worth more than 100,000 in today's terms. It's about rights.

When I moved here I bought a trailer that was located in a fairly nice park and I noted that the lots would be perfect for houses. The owner said that it would never be anything except a mobile home park and explained why.

He had been selling the mobile homes and operating the parks for a long while and the laws had changed a few years earlier. He had a piece of land that was zoned for a mobile home park. When he went to get whatever permission he needed to lay out the streets and plumbing it was denied. He argued with the city council at nearly every meeting for months. After a time he quit, paved a street, and built some fairly nice little houses in the same space.

That undoubtedly cut into his ability to sell his mobile homes. Since that time there have been a number of parks that have been closed. Each time that happens, only a small portion of the homes in the park wind up being moved to other parks. A few are not worth moving, but the majority aren't relocated because the operators of the parks seek to only admit the newest looking units.

That is natural, as a newer unit has a somewhat better appearance than an older one, regardless of whether or not it is built any better. The park operator wants to be able to rent each lot for as much money as possible and to not have complaints or a need to change houses very often. It is within the owner's or operator's rights to refuse a mobile home that does not meet some arbitrary standards.

That means that somebody is going to get pinched. When people keep selling new mobile homes and bringing them from elsewhere, and the number of lots is fixed or decreasing, then some mobile homes have to come out. There is no way around that. So what was once someone's prized asset becomes someone's liability. And this problem is caused by local governments. And I can guarantee you that if you talk to those responsible for the policies, they will deflect the blame and stand behind their decision. They will rationalize with all sorts of reasons why theirs is the best policy.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire September 16, 2011 | 11:28 a.m.

One reason that people have trouble contesting this is because a mobile home is considered "personal property" while land is considered "real property." The grandfathering that protects individuals against down zoning and other changes in regulations doesn't seem to personal property that is not attached to real property.
That the city and county allow this to occur and reoccur on a regular basis is unethical and, in my opinion, those who are responsible for the situation rank among the lowest order of criminals. It is almost as if someone is attempting to keep people from being able to provide for themselves, so that they can continue to be exploited while others gain. A class warfare. A personification of callous arrogant imperialistic fascism. A prime example of the dysfunctionality of your government and your society. A good reason to enjoy one of those sermons by Obama's old pastor that some people don't seem to like very well. An encouragement for people to ignore all kinds of rules and regulations. A damnation of your society and it's leaders.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz September 16, 2011 | 4:07 p.m.

Paul, I'm not sure about the city, but Boone County does not prevent you from placing mobile homes on land you own. My brother moved his trailer from a park in Columbia to the family farm for several years. Darn thing burned down, as did the one my parents owned when I was a baby. That, combined with them depreciating to about zero, is why I don't recommend anyone buy one and stick it in a trailer park.

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Ed Ricciotti September 16, 2011 | 4:59 p.m.

I think in Boone county you must have at least a 5 acre lot for a single wide and a 3 acre lot for a double wide.

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John Schultz September 16, 2011 | 11:27 p.m.

Thanks Ed, I went and dug up the county's zoning regulations and here's what they said:

A manufactured home or mobile home shall be used for residential purposes only as a dwelling. A manufactured home containing a minimum of 650 sq. ft. of floor space shall be permitted in all Districts where Single Family Dwellings are permitted. No manufactured home
or mobile home shall be permitted in a recorded subdivision except as a conditional use.

The bit about mobile homes not being allowed in a subdivision was a new one to me.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire September 17, 2011 | 10:35 a.m.

Yes, John. It is not uncommon for a mobile home to be wired with aluminum instead of copper wires. I don't know if the builders are allowed to use that short cut any longer. The old ones generally used paneling instead of sheet rock for the walls. Most of the older mobile homes were delivered on two axles. Most newer ones need five axles because of their increased weight.

I suppose the "recorded subdivision" bit is the actual language preventing any new mobile home parks. If it's not, there is language in there somewhere. So do you think there are enough five acre lots available in Boone County to handle the dispersion? How many of the displaced do you feel will be able to afford that? How many of the residents do you suppose actually want to live outside of the city?

You might also notice that quite a few five and ten acre lots for sale are part of "recorded subdivisions."

I'll bet that not more than fifteen people actually manage to get their home successfully planted on their own piece of land in Boone County. And thanks for refreshing my memory about the specifics of the law in this county. Now that you have mentioned it I can remember looking for a piece of land here and how only a few of the overpriced pieces that I found were said to be ones where a mobile was allowed and how mostly those were either a great distance or in another county.

I also remember that across our nation most people are limited from dividing their land into pieces smaller than three acres. This is said to be done to keep too many septic systems and lagoons from degrading the quality of the groundwater. When that is combined with cities and counties that limit the number of water meters that they will install in various locations it creates a squeeze. It is a good situation for developers.

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Paul Allaire September 17, 2011 | 11:06 a.m.

And while on the subject of the three acre minimums, it is not always exactly that. In some areas it is five or six acres. I remember a place in Florida, where there was a neighborhood of paper roads going for miles and miles, where residents from all over the country bought lots for fifteen thousand dollars each in the late 1960's, or about the same price as a pretty decent home. Someone managed to down zone them so that if you were not one of the lucky few who had already built then you would never be allowed to. You would need to assemble twenty of them to have enough acreage. I can remember this because I was studying the possibility of doing exactly that before concluding that the idea was worthless. The lots were selling for as little as a hundred and realtors were still listing them and selling them to people who didn't know any better or care for around a thousand dollars. Yes, after squeezing out the people the local government still was collecting taxes on them, based on their assessed value, which had been adjusted down somewhat, but was still higher than what the shady realtors were listing the properties for, which was much higher than what they were actually selling for which was several times their actual worth, given the fact that the same local government was going to stand on you with the law if you actually attempted to make some use of the property. Of course, all of that could have been solved if the municipality doing the standing on actually extended utility services to the properties.

I can remember some places where similar communities got some federal money for exactly that and the lots then became worth great multiples of what they could have been bought for just before that. So the capriciousness of various levels of governments can and does work both ways. Sometimes it even benefits the poor, but generally it is for the well connected or, at the least, for someone who has been paying attention for a long time and who is essentially gambling.

Do you feel that you should need to be gambling on something as basic and as necessary as your place to live? Do you think that because someone has limited resources that they should need to spend a third or more of their income for thirty years to obtain basic shelter if they are doing very well? Do you think that there should be a class of people who are obliged to pay rent to someone else for their whole life because their income is slightly below that level? Should we view people as livestock to enrich a few people who have been fortunate enough to not have had a slight initial financial advantage?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz September 18, 2011 | 4:23 p.m.

Based on my recollection of someone who tried to start up a mobile home park near my neck of the woods, any such owner has to get a conditional use permit from the county before a park can be created. If you are a single owner not wanting to start a park, then this doesn't apply of course.

After doing a little more digging in the county's zoning regulations, it looks like all residential districts require a minimum lot size of 7000 square feet, or a bit less than a fifth of an acre, so the requirement for 3 or 5 acres is incorrect. I don't know how many such tracts already exist in the county or even just tracts that are roughly an acre in size.

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Paul Allaire September 18, 2011 | 4:46 p.m.

John, I believe that is if you are allowed to connect to a sewer system. Otherwise you aren't going to be able to divide into pieces smaller than three acres. Correct me if I am wrong. And I believe the thing about needing five acres before being allowed to use a single wide mobile home is true. I'm also fairly sure that if you own a piece of land that has already been divided and is smaller than the three acres then you are still allowed to build on it, but given my experience I would not count on that condition to be maintained. I have seen this vary from one locality to the next.

What is the newest local mobile home park you have seen?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz September 19, 2011 | 10:19 a.m.

Unfortunately I couldn't that information while poking around the county's website over the weekend. Might ping one of the folks I know in the planning and building department.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 20, 2011 | 12:31 p.m.

@Paul:
I agree with your premise that the city has a moral responsibility to their citizens if the city chooses to rezone the Regency Trailer Park property.
As Mike Martin states, it is also fitting and proper for the city to make certain that any monies obtained from the selling of this property be garnished to satisfy fines, etc. and be used for a relocation fund for those being displaced.
It saddens me to live in a town, where we are quick to contribute money and people resources to our neighbors in Joplin, when a natural disaster removes Missourians from their homes, and yet I see no organized efforts being made by United Way, KOMU-TV, Mizzou sports, our local churches or Walmart to assist our local poor and disabled with this man-made eviction just because transient college students are more important than sustainable, properly managed low-income housing for our more permanent residential citizenry.

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