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As the Community Turns… are Residents Hurting Themselves?

April 29th, 2017 Comments off
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East End Mobile Home Park. Credit: WAPO.

In a story that the Daily Business News has been following extensively, the saga of the East End Mobile Home Park in Manassas, Virginia has shown signs of hope.

But, the very residents that have fought to stay, may actually put themselves in a position to not be able to do that.

Last week, we reported that James Turner, an Alexandria lawyer and the owner of two other manufactured home communities, has stepped up to the plate with an offer to purchase the troubled community.

I’ve reached a tentative agreement with East End’s owner to buy the property, repair its malfunctioning sewer systemand manage it along with my other parks [sic],” said Turner.

The city of Manassas was set to purchase the community for $1.86 million from a trust controlled by Helen Loretta Clarke, who residents claim neglected the community’s sewage system to the point that unless residents took action themselves, sewage came up into their yards.

According to the Washington Post, the deal for Turner to purchase the community could be scuttled amid threats of a federal lawsuit from residents pushing for him to agree to a host of demands.

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James Turner. Credit: VTW Law firm.

I’ve never seen a land deal where the tenants tell me all the conditions where I’m able to buy, and that makes it very difficult,” said Turner.

The bid from Turner would need to be approved by the City of Manassas, and Patrick J. Small, the city’s director of economic development, said officials are willing to cancel that agreement if Turner can prove he has the money to buy the land and make the repairs.

The city would then require Turner to submit a plan for the repairs that Manassas engineers consider to be “reasonable, doable and achievable,” and a financial guarantee in the amount needed for those fixes that, should Turner back out of the purchase, the city could then use to make them,” said Small.

While discussions between Turner and Clarke’s representatives have progressed, they have been hampered by threats.

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A home at East End Mobile Home Park. Credit: Inside Nova.

Those threats would come in the form of a federal lawsuit by residents, if Turner doesn’t agree to 14 conditions put forth by them.

Among other things, the residents want lot fees at or below $600 per month for at least five years, a guarantee that the community’s crumbling roads would be fixed and plowed after snowstorms, and a new playground area.

Residents also want Turner to agree to help them try to buy East End themselves after five years if they choose to do so.

These are nonnegotiable demands,” said Victor M. Glasberg, a civil rights attorney in Alexandria, who recently started representing residents. “The paramount interest is living there under hygienic and reasonable circumstances.”

Glasberg also said that Dumfries-based nonprofit Catholics for Housing has also been preparing to purchase the community – and had already agreed to the demands.

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East End Residents attend a Manassas city meeting. Credit: Potomac Local.

That information was news to Karen DeVito, Catholics for Housing’s director.

I didn’t know there were demands being made,” said DeVito.

For Turner, he says that some of the residents’ requests either are not within his legal rights, or are unfeasible. He also feels that potentially being pulled into a federal lawsuit gives him pause.

I don’t want to step into past history,” said Turner. “I’m trying to deal in good faith.”

For more on the saga at the East End Mobile Home Park, click here. ##

 

(Image credits are as shown above, and when provided by third parties, are shared under fair use guidelines.)

 

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RC Williams, for Daily Business News, MHProNews.

Submitted by RC Williams to the Daily Business News for MHProNews.

Rollercoaster Ride may be Ending for Manufactured Home Community?

April 21st, 2017 Comments off
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East End Residents attend a Manassas city meeting. Credit: Potomac Local.

A long, and often confusing rollercoaster ride for residents at the East End Mobile Home Park in Manassas, Virginia may be coming to an end.

But, as has been the case for the community, it won’t come without clearing a few hurdles.

Per InsideNova, James Turner, an Alexandria lawyer and the owner of two other manufactured home communities, has stepped up to the plate with an offer to purchase the trouble community.

I’ve reached a tentative agreement with East End’s owner to buy the property, repair its malfunctioning sewer system, and manage it along with my other parks, [sic]” said Turner.

As the Daily Business News has covered, the city of Manassas was set to purchase the community for $1.86 million from a trust controlled by Helen Loretta Clarke, who residents claim neglected the community’s sewage system to the point that unless residents took action themselves, sewage came up into their yards.

For Turner, who admits he’s been watching “the circus” from the sidelines, sees purchasing the community as a huge plus.

I look at this as an investment for my retirement days. I’m hoping to clean it up and make it a much nicer place to live,” said Turner.

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James Turner. Credit: VTW Law firm.

After one of the residents of my Alexandria properties urged me to look into it, I decided to call the seller and see what’s going on.”

Even with the positive momentum, Turner will still have some hurdles.

First, the city will need to step back from its plan to purchase the property, and that would be contingent on whether or not the buyer would be able to afford to repair the sewer system, which could cost up to $1.5 million on top of the sale price.

Turner says this isn’t an issue.

I wouldn’t invest a million dollars in this unless I knew for sure I could do it,” said Turner.

I’m ready to buy this and get started, and start spending money with the anticipation that the city will let me buy it.”

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Credit: NBC 4.

Turner has also offered to bring in workers to begin the initial clean up on the property as an act of good faith, to demonstrate he’s serious.

The other challenge is around the city’s discussions with Catholics for Housing, a Dumfries, Virginia-based nonprofit.

Jonathan Francis, the pro bono attorney representing the community’s residents, says the non-profit had managed to earn the trust of his clients by supporting several key provisions in the negotiations.

The charity was willing to offer long-term leases so residents could feel secure that a sudden sale of the property wouldn’t force them out of their homes. Keeping rents at a reasonable rate is another important consideration, since many residents only pay about $400 per month right now and couldn’t afford to pay much more,” said Francis.

Without similar assurances from Turner, I don’t know how comfortable people on the park [sic] might be even staying on the property.”

For Vice Mayor Marc Aveni, a leading opposition voice on the city purchasing the community, says that while he hasn’t spoken with Turner directly, if he’s sincere, it’s good to have him involved.

If he cleans up the park [sic] and gives the residents an affordable place to stay that’s a win to me,” said Aveni.

From my standpoint, having multiple people interested is probably a good thing. We get to pick and choose.”

Also in play is a pending litigation, in which 49 of the 58 families living at East End are pursuing “tenant’s assertions” against Clarke and her representatives.

Tenant’s assertions are a legal action that lets the residents pay their rent into an escrow account controlled by the Prince William County District Court while a judge evaluates whether the community’s owners are responsible for its poor condition.

Francis says his clients feel comfortable ending that case if Catholics for Housing purchases the community, but he’s not sure what they may do if Turner buys it instead.

Part of any deal is looking to get some sort of agreement from the residents that they won’t be pursuing action against the seller, and there hasn’t been a meeting between the residents and Mr. Turner to discuss that yet,” said Francis.

Helen Sorto, who has been working with East End residents to stay in their homes, agrees with Francis.

Some are already preparing to leave, particularly because Turner could raise rents to the point where the park’s low-income residents simply can’t afford to stay,” says Sorto.

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A home at East End Mobile Home Park. Credit: Inside Nova.

With the improvements to the quality of the community, Turner says that rents may go up by $100 or $150 per month, but points out the property’s rate would remain below what he charges in his other communities, or rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the city.

I expect that the repairs I’m planning will improve the value of the trailers [sic] on the park [sic], making it a better investment for residents,” said Turner.

This is an investment on my part, so there may be some rental increases, and the tenants are aware of it. It has to work for them and has to work for me, and I think we’ve had a meeting of the minds.”

For more on the saga at the East End Mobile Home Park, click here. ##

 

(Image credits are as shown above, and when provided by third parties, are shared under fair use guidelines.)

 

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RC Williams, for Daily Business News, MHProNews.

Submitted by RC Williams to the Daily Business News for MHProNews.