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Another park bites the dust

Mobile La Vista Court residents have until Oct. 15, 2007, to move
by: Jaime Valdez, CONCERNED NEIGHBORS — Mobile La Vista Court residents Rhonda Stobbe and Charlie Carter will attend a meeting Thursday with a representative of Oregon’s housing department’s mobile home division to learn about their rights as residents in a park slated for closure.

TUALATIN - Mobile La Vista Court, located just outside Tualatin on Southwest Pacific Highway, will be the next mobile home park in Washington County to close.

While the Office of Manufactured Dwelling Housing Community Relations has no record yet of the closing, residents at the park received notices in the mail last week from park manager and co-owner Ken Espedal.

'Thank you for being a tenant at Mobile Vista Courts,' read the end of the two-page letter, which was attached to a 15-page compilation of Oregon state statutes and guidelines for tax filings.

And with that sentiment, residents were informed that the park would officially close on Oct. 15, 2007. Residents have little more than a year to move, and according to the letters, they will have to do it without any voluntary benefits or money from the park owner.

Sixty-eight-year-old Charlie Carter said the notice didn't surprise him. With parks in Beaverton and Sherwood being closed, Carter said he knew it was only a matter of time.

'It just keeps getting worse,' said Carter, a 12-year resident of the park.

Rhonda Stobbe said she cried when she read the letter, then she got angry.

'There are people here who are not going to be able to survive this,' Stobbe said referring to the park's older residents who live on fixed incomes and already couldn't afford a rent hike to $420 that was implemented six months ago.

Stobbe worries about what will become of the residents who have lived in the park for 15 to 20 years and whose trailers are too old to move. Carter said he knows what will happen.

'They'll live in an apartment and spend all their money,' he predicted.

The park is recognized by the state's mobile home park directory as a 55-and-older park. But Espedal said he was not aware of that labeling for the park. Espedal and his siblings took over management and ownership of the 40-year-old park after their parents passed away. According to Espedal, his father Russell built the park.

'I don't know if I'd say this was a hard decision, but it's a decision we had to do,' Espedal said. 'I wouldn't want to (close the park) if we didn't have to.'

According to Espedal, for the last few years the county zoning regulations have made it hard for the 31-unit park to grow. Espedal noted that the 1-acre site is not even recognized as a mobile home park. He said he has tried to allow new mobile home owners to set up on the site but all requests have been denied. Espedal said that has made it hard for him to do business.

According to the Washington County Assessment and Taxation Department records, the land is zoned as FD-10, which is a future development 10-acre district.

The FD-10 designation is supposed to recognize parcels of land that lie just outside a city's active planning area. The designation is meant to encourage and retain limited interim uses until a need for more intensive urban land use activities develop, and the land is annexed into a city. The designation does allow for permits for such development as mobile homes.

However, Espedal said since he and his siblings took over the park, the county and the city of Tualatin have refused to allow him to have more trailers moved onto the property. So while Espedal says he sympathizes with residents, especially those who have lived at the park for 20 years, he sees no other option. Espedal said he expects to put the land on the market soon.

'We're doomed. I know that,' Stobbe said. 'But something's got to be done. They can't keep closing (the parks) down.'

Stobbe has organized a neighborhood meeting with a representative from the Oregon housing department's mobile home division. Stobbe hopes to get some answers about what rights residents have when it comes to park closures.

And while Carter is unhappy that the park owners will not be providing any monetary benefit to help residents move, he is also infuriated that parks continue to close and no one has done anything to stop it.

'Why haven't (the people in government) done something to stop this from happening. They should have stepped in,' Carter said.

Stobbe agreed and added, 'It's not so much on the park owners but there needs to be a law that protects us.'