Friday, June 02, 2017

Rezoning Application May Be Tip-Off On Landlord's Decision To Close Mobile Home Park & Possibly Sell To Developer; Dozens Of Lot-Leasing Homeowners Given One Year To Pack Their Bags & Move Their Homes

In Aurora, Colorado, Colorado Public Radio reports:
  • Seen on a map, it’s clear why a developer would be interested in Denver Meadows Mobile Home and RV Park in north Aurora.

    The CU Anschutz Medical Campus and new VA Medical Center overlook the 20-acre property. A creek runs along the area until the waterway enters a nearby park. And the Colfax stop on RTD’s new R-Line is well within walking distance.

    The park’s owner, Shawn Lustigman, intends to close the park next June. That would affect around 100 families who live in Denver Meadows, which residents describe as a tight-knit community that’s relatively affordable.

    But residents say they are not giving up the park without a fight.
    Park managers have told residents they no longer wish to run the park and plan to retire. Residents don’t buy it. They think the closure is part of the owner’s plan to sell the park to a developer.

    Lustigman, a local businessman, also owns Berkeley Village Mobile Home Park in Arvada and A-1 Mobile Village in Colorado Springs as well as other parks around the country.

    In December of 2015, he applied to rezone to Denver Meadows to allow construction of high-rise apartments, new shops and hotels — but not mobile homes. Notices went up around Denver Meadows last spring. With the help of 9to5 Colorado, a local advocacy group, residents showed up en masse when Aurora’s zoning commission and city council considered the zoning decision.

    Last July, the council voted to table the request, citing poor relations between the management and residents. But the decision has not shifted plans to close the park.

    Lustigman declined multiple requests to comment for this story, but in a meeting recorded by residents, he was as clear as the eviction notices that have already been sent to residents.

    “The park is closing,” Lustigman said. “It doesn't make a difference. There’s really nothing you can do.”
    Denver Meadows residents thought they had their own answer, one that could set a precedent for the rest of Colorado. They would be the state’s first mobile home residents to collectively buy the park for themselves.

    Resident-owned communities have caught on in a number of states, especially New Hampshire. ROC USA, a nonprofit that organizes financing for residents to buy parks, now has around 200 parks across the country.

    Bailey Dotson, who works with Thistle Communities(1) and ROC USA, made a market-rate offer on the park on behalf of Denver Meadows residents. Dotson expected that after appraisal, the sale price could come to roughly between $15 and $18 million. He said that in a private meeting over a month ago, park owner Shawn Lustigman declined.

    He was very clear with me that they don’t intend to sell the park and close in 2018,” said Dotson.
    As the clock runs down, residents are turning to the City of Aurora in a final attempt to hold onto the park. The HOA and organizers plan to ask the City Council to deny the owner’s request to rezone. They hope to force Lustigman back to the table.

    Without a deal or new action for the city, residents will have to relocate their homes in just over a year.

    Resident Petra Bennett said the prospect is more difficult than people might imagine. Vacancies are scant in the metro area. Even if you find one, the cost to move a home generally runs between $5,000 and $10,000, according to the Corporation For Enterprise Development.

    In a walk across the park on a recent cloudy afternoon, Bennett pointed out a number of trailers that likely can’t be moved at all. Many were made before 1976 when the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development set standards for manufactured homes. Most parks refuse to accept pre-1976 structures.

    Beyond those practical limitations, Bennett can’t imagine letting go of her home tucked in a grove beside an overpass.

    “It’s cheaper living than a ‘house house,’ but it really is the same thing. You raise your family here. You make your memories here. You put all of your money and pride into these homes.”

    That’s clear from looking at her yard. With the help of her sons, Bennett dug ponds and lined them with berry bushes and fruit trees. She said the landscaping was a way to create an oasis in her backyard.

    And while she succeeded, it remains an oasis built on someone else’s land.
For the story, see The Denver Metro's Hunger For Housing Is Squeezing Mobile Home Parks.
(1) Thistle is a Boulder,Colorado-based non-profit organization dedicated to planning, development and management of affordable housing.

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