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Pre-emptive action urgent for mobile home park tenants.

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Peter Ferris For the Register-Guard

Residents of mobile home parks need to pay attention to the Manufactured Home Park Committee, part of the intergovernmental Housing Policy Board. It meets monthly to consider making recommendations about how to respond to park closures in Lane County.

The reason to pay attention is simple: Unless tenants take steps to influence their elected city and county representatives, they will have no protections when facing closure of their park. And while park closures haven't been happening locally as they have in Bend or in Washington and Clackamas counties near Portland, the Eugene-Springfield area is ripe for such a possibility.

The recent deluge of mobile home park closures statewide has made weighing in politically at the local level urgent, and it's best if it can be done pre-emptively.

In Glenwood some parks will be closed, partly because they are old, dilapidated and on failed septic systems. To remedy this situation, Springfield has created the Glenwood Urban Renewal Plan, which includes funding to build affordable housing such as St. Vincent de Paul's Aurora and Royal buildings. Springfield is selecting a developer to upgrade a 47-acre parcel on the northeastern rim of Glenwood next to the Willamette River. The upgrade would include sewer hookups. Park residents in Glenwood now need to lobby the Springfield City Council to pass an ordinance that offers protection in the event of closures.

Eugene is another matter. As in Springfield, it has been quiet - except for the Emerald Valley closure last year, which saw 18 to 20 residents unable to move their homes after a conversion to stick-built homes. The owners threw out residents there, in some cases just months after they had moved in, and most lost their shirts in the process after paying $22,000 for carport and driveway improvements. Some filed bankruptcy, while others deeded their double-wide mobile homes back to the banks that provided loans. No refinancing for relocation was available, and only two residents holding credit cards with high limits were able to move their homes.

Given a state law that offers little or no protection, and given the lack of certainty that there will be a legislative solution, there is good reason why the Eugene City Council should consider an enhanced ordinance as soon as possible. Jerry Harden, a Briarwood Park homeowner and member of the Manufactured Home Park Committee, has urged the members to do so, and the chair, Eugene City Councilor Jennifer Solomon, has asked him to put together a proposal for the committee's next meeting.

The city of Wilsonville was the first to pass an ordinance last October, and this spring Bend passed a temporary one, good to the end of this year. Roger Ash, owner of the Thunderbird Mobile Home Park in Wilsonville that is targeted for conversion to other uses, has sued the city, stating that state law pre-empts such a local ordinance and that it represents a Measure 37-style `taking without compensation.' Circuit Court Judge John Lowe ruled against the first claim, and a judge is now being selected to hear testimony on the second in early October.

Last month a mediation in Wilsonville conducted by retired Eugene Judge Edward Leavy failed at the last moment, in spite of the fact that Thunderbird residents voted 163-3 in favor of the package. In spite of Wilsonville's ordinance, Ash is reported to be negotiating with a developer and expects to realize plenty of compensation if he sells his 62-acre park. He has not given notice to his residents, but more than 40 have already left, many deeding over their homes to the park owner. One wonders why Ash expects to be successful in pursuing litigation when in fact he's not being denied `just' compensation for his property.

The Lane County committee will be holding its next meeting on Oct. 11 at 10 a.m. at the Saul Room in the Atrium Building, 99 West 10th Ave. A forum for public input will be held on Nov. 1 at Songbrook Mobile Home Park, 4055 Royal Ave. People with questions or comments can direct them to the committee staff person, Stephanie Jennings, at mhpcommittee @ci.eugene.or.us.

Peter Ferris (bumpy73@yahoo.com) is a tenant rights advocate for mobile home residents and lives in a mobile home park in Walport.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Sep 21, 2006
Words:720
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