May 17, 2006
Support Law To Protect Trailer Owners
According to Bill Lindsay, the presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, mobile home parks are "the last real affordable living in Suffolk County." But they come with a caveat. Owners of trailer parks can decide to sell the land out from under the homes, leaving residents with no place to go.
Lindsay and North Fork Legislator Ed Romaine are looking to change that. On Monday the pair urged support of state legislation that might provide mobile home owners with a measure of security. If adopted, the law would require park owners to give residents the right of first refusal when they want to sell the land.
Lindsay has two mobile home parks in his district, which includes Bohemia and Holbrook. With the value of property increasing on Long Island, the threat of owners selling property out from under homeowners "becomes more and more real," he opined last week. He feels offering the right of first refusal is really important in terms of fundamental fairness.
Speaking to The Independent last Thursday, Lindsay related the story of two manufactured home residents. They told him their homes could sell for $125,000. But if the land they rest on is sold, "They'd probably be worthless," he offered.
For Romaine, the legislation fulfills a campaign promise. On the stump last fall he heard concern expressed by constituents who feared the same fate as the homeowners from the Roll-In Park on Route 58 in Riverhead.
Now home to a soon-to-open Walgreen's, the land used to accommodate a 10-unit mobile home park. When the landowner prepared to sell, many of the residents faced an uncertain future. Their homes were too old to move and there was nowhere to relocate them, since zoning laws in many towns restrict where manufactured homes can go. Lots of the residents couldn't afford higher rents elsewhere.
According to Riverhead Town Supervisor Phil Cardinale, the buyers and landowner were prepared to "simply dispossess" residents before town officials stepped in. Working with lawyers from Walgreen's the town was able to help residents get money to pay for the cost of moving trailers.
The proposal calls for allowing manufactured homeowners the opportunity to purchase the park through a homeowners' association within 60 days from the time the park owners either publicly offers the park for sale or receives an unsolicited offer that is being seriously considered. For Cardinale the proposal seems to make sense. However, he said, given the soaring costs of commercial land, residents of parks may not be able to match the hefty price tag — even if given the chance.
Cardinale dubbed the parks located across the street from McDonald's on CR58, "the next to go." There, two contiguous parks are home to 74 units on about eight and a half acres. That commercial property has become so valuable, he said, the residents might not be able to afford to buy the land even if they are offered the first right of refusal. The plan could work in residential areas, he felt.
Romaine acknowledged that residents of the CR58 parks might not be able to afford the price of the land. Still, he believes they should be given the opportunity. "It's a fairness issue," he said, concluding, "I think this legislation is smart legislation."