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Mobile home park residents hit by closure news

Reality sets in for those whose houses will disappear
by: Jaime Valdez, Lisa Sollman walks down her street at Beaverton Mobilodge Wednesday, accompanied by her two children, Jacob, center, 6, and Isaac, 4. Residents at the park, along with tenants at the adjacent Nut Tree Estates and Young’s Mobile Estates, have until Aug. 4, 2007, to move out.

Lisa Sollman was shocked to find a notice in her mailbox Tuesday saying she had a year to move out of her Beaverton Mobilodge mobile home space.

She had heard otherwise.

'We're surprised because last month they said they wouldn't sell,' said Sollman, who on Wednesday was walking through the park with her two sons who were on their way to a soda machine.

On Monday, notices were sent to 222 tenants at Beaverton Mobilodge, Nut Tree Estates and Young's Mobile Estates on Southwest Jenkins Road that they would have to move out by Aug. 4, 2007, to make room for redevelopment of the 21 acres on which the parks sit.

Developer Sawara Property Group is working with Washington County planners to change land-use zones on part of the property to allow a commercial/retail development on the site.

Edwin Kawasaki, Sawara's representative, said no plans have been submitted to the county to redevelop the site, but it could take 18 to 24 months to get the zone change and begin construction.

Since Beaverton Mobilodge has the most tenants of the three, Sollman thought they would escape closure.

Still Sollman is one of the luckier ones.

'I already have someone who wants to buy the trailer and pull it out of here,' she said

Down the street from Sollman, a woman on Wednesday morning was talking to her neighbor about news of the upcoming closure.

The woman, who asked not to be identified, called the notification a 'big surprise, (a) horror.' She said her husband recently completed interior remodeling and they didn't know what they would do yet.

The woman's neighbor, who also didn't want to be identified, said he has lived in the park for six years and spent $3,000 in remodeling costs.

What those tenants aren't certain of yet is whether they will take an early termination payment of $5,250 to leave the park by Feb. 17, 2007.

Sawara Property Group has said it won't charge tenants who can't afford to move their homes, offering to pick up between $2,000 and $4,000 in abandonment costs.

'Throughout our discussions and preparations for this project, one of the central goals has been to create a tenant relocation program consisting of both financial and relocation assistance for the displaced tenants so that the inconvenience of their relocations can be minimized as much as possible,' Kawasaki said. 'We are very sensitive to the disruption created by the park closures and how difficult the transition can be for the people and families involved.'

The three mobile home parks are on property just a couple of blocks east of the Nike World Campus and other major employers.

According to county tax records, the site is valued at about $9 million.

Sawara representatives met with county planners May 30 to discuss the possibility of a project at the site.

The company has until Aug. 15 to submit an application to begin the permit process.

Relocation

Alisa Pyszka, of WRG Design, the consulting firm working with the Sawara Property Group, said the site will have commercial development closer to Murray and Jenkins, followed by high-density and single-family housing.

'It's kind of a mixture,' said Pyszka. 'The spread is over the three mobile home parks.'

Pyszka also said the company will work with mobile home park tenants who are retired to help them find other places to live.

A tenant relocation fair is scheduled Aug. 14 at Meadow Park Middle School, 14100 S.W. Downing St., to help residents find new spaces for the homes.

On Tuesday, Pat Schwoch, executive director of Manufactured Home Owners of Oregon, Inc., said she expected to hear from those affected by the closure this week.

'It's going to be horrible and it always is,' she said of the parks' closures. 'Those three parks are in a real vulnerable spot.'

Still, she called the developers' offer to compensate those who agree to leave early 'more generous' than others have offered.

The most she's heard offered as part of an early termination payment is $3,500, compared to the $5,250 offered by the Sawara Property Group.

'They're doing a lot of things for these folks that other park owners haven't done in closing parks,' said Schwoch.

'Leader in awful'

Acknowledging the ban by many mobile parks on pre-1980 homes, Schwoch said that might make it difficult for many in the affected parks to move their property.

'I would say in Nut Tree and in Beaverton Mobilodge that probably if you could find 25 of those that are moveable, you'd be lucky,' said Schwoch.

In addition, Schwoch estimated that many of the residents in the three parks pay roughly $400 a month rent for their park space. She said she couldn't think of an apartment complex that charges less than $400 a month for rent.

Susan Wilson, director of Washington County Department of Housing Services, said of the 5,611 mobile home spaces listed by the county, owners of mobile parks comprising 670 spaces have notified tenants that they will close or have already closed.

That makes up about 12 percent of the total mobile home inventory, said Wilson.

Washington County has about 63 mobile home parks with 5,382 spaces, according to state statistics.

Nine mobile home parks have closed in the county since February, making Schwoch a little angry.

'It's terrible,' she said. 'There's no question that it's awful. And Washington County is the leader in awful.'

Some alternatives for the residents could include moving to other parks with available spaces, she said.

A park in Yamhill County has 30 spaces, she said, and few others around the region have more than a couple spaces open right now.

'They don't have any options,' she said of the park's residents.