Residents of the SLP Mobile Home Park, 8370 Sunset Road, will be displaced when the owner closes it in six months.
The number of people living in the park has dwindled in recent years. With room for 30 trailers, the park only has seven residents at present.
“The infrastructure is such that it is deemed appropriate by the owner that the land use has lived its natural course,” said Wilbur Dorn, legal counsel for Russell Francen, the park’s owner, at a public hearing on the closure April 21. Francen intends to sell the property.
The park sits on land zoned for industrial use, but because the park predates that designation, built in the 1940s, more than 20 years before the parcel was zoned I-1, it is a non-conforming use. When the park is closed, the land will revert to commercial-industrial property.
Francen, with Dorn, prepared a closure statement that was provided to residents in mid-February.
State law gives residents nine months from the time a closure process is initiated to pack up and move elsewhere, which means residents must be out of the SLP Mobile Home Park before Thanksgiving, unless the owner allows an extension. “Hopefully everyone would be relocated in the summer months,” Dorn said.
The closure of a mobile home park involves the city, but not insofar as the city has any say as to whether the park should remain open.
“This isn’t a city-initiated action. This is a private property owner exerting their rights under state law to close this park and utilize the property in a different way,” Spring Lake Park City Administrator Dan Buchholtz said during the public hearing. “I just wanted to make that clear to the public that this isn’t us. State law gives us a role to essentially appoint this qualified neutral. We have no authority to say, ‘No, you can’t close the park.’”
Upon park ownership’s recommendation and with no objections from residents in attendance, the Spring Lake Park City Council appointed Lori Manzoline of the Anoka County Community Action Program as qualified neutral immediately following the public hearing.
Manzoline was the qualified neutral when Woodland Court, 6050 Highway 10, Anoka, closed in 2008. The two parks have many similarities, she said.
In her role, Manzoline must work with residents to find alternative housing, taking advantage of compensation available to them through the Minnesota Manufactured Home Relocation Trust Fund.
Francen is required to contribute $3,250 per unit to the trust fund.
Residents are eligible for up to $4,000 if they relocate their mobile home to another park within a 25-mile radius of the SLP Mobile Home Park.
Because the average age of the units is more than 35 years, moving the trailers will be impossible for many residents.
If residents are unable to relocate their unit, they are eligible to the fair market value of the unit in a buyout, up to $5,000.
As of late last week, Manzoline sent letters to all residents and had spoken with three on the phone. She has set up appointments to meet with two of them in person.
“It can be very stressful.” Manzoline said. “I’m with them every step of the way ….”
Darrell Siewert, who has lived in the park for 18 years, spoke during the public hearing to inform the council that being forced to pack up and move “is not a good deal for me right now.”
Between health problems and financial difficulties, he isn’t sure how he will be able to relocate.
“I can understand why they’re closing the park, and I probably, if I would have had it, would have done it years ago,” Siewert said. “I’m just letting you know that it greatly inconveniences me and puts an extreme hardship on me at this time to do it.”
He’s working on finding subsidized housing that has level-access to accommodate his walker, but a lot of options have waiting lists of more than a year, he said.
Council sympathized, but doesn’t have funding available for Siewert and other residents, neither in the city budget nor in its allocation with the Anoka County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Buchholtz said.
Two other park residents spoke during the public hearing, Roy Howell and Samantha Daudt.
“I know it sure would be hard to all of a sudden have someone tell me, ‘That’s it – out you go,’” Councilmember Jeanne Mason said.
Olivia Koester is at firstname.lastname@example.org