Evicted tenants air frustration

Residents Karen Lemoine, Sabrina Clay, Tim Strohmeyer and Perry Harris protest the closing of the M & M Mobile Home Park in Oak Harbor. - Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times
Residents Karen Lemoine, Sabrina Clay, Tim Strohmeyer and Perry Harris protest the closing of the M & M Mobile Home Park in Oak Harbor.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times

A group of M & M Mobile Home Park residents aired their frustrations during a public hearing before the Oak Harbor City Council Tuesday night.

The hearing, which was to gather public comment on a host of changes to a section of the Oak Harbor Municipal Code that regulates manufactured home parks and subdivisions, turned into a forum for the evicted mobile home park residents to share their concerns about the city’s lack of resources for its low-income citizens.

“We’re not there on purpose or intent, it is circumstance,” said Perry Harris, a resident of M & M who’s in the process of designing and building a top for his truck, which will become his new home.

“We need places that are affordable to live,” he said. “I do hope that our needs are met.”

Sabrina Clay and her fiance, Tim Strohmeyer, who make their home in the park, also attended the meeting.

“The fact is that we’re about to be homeless,” she said. “We have nowhere to go.”

According to Karen Lemoine, her mobile home only receives power to one side and has holes in the floor.

“That’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done,” Lemoine said of sharing her thoughts with the city.

In an effort to help the M & M residents, Mayor Jim Slowik asked them to leave their phone numbers with his assistant Renee Recker, which they did.

However, Recker said she has since had little luck in her search to find available resources for the evicted residents.

M & M housed about 16 tenants, including a small child, a number of people on disability and a man dying of AIDS. They were supposed to be out by June 1, but most lingered into this week because they had nowhere else to go.

“It’s just brutal out there,” Recker said of the overburdened island housing assistance programs such as the Opportunity Council and the Island County Housing Authority.

“The waiting lists are amazing,” she said. “The resources are slim. Real slim. They’re just overwhelmed because of the economy at this time.”

Tuesday, several residents posted signs at the park protesting the owners’ decision to close the park in order to build a funeral home and pet crematorium.

Lemoine, the former park manager, said the Foremans tried to have the electricity turned off and the meters removed at all the homes. She said Puget Sound Energy refused to cut off power after receiving calls from residents. Also, she said Ron Wallin of P&L Construction, the company that’s developing the property, has been very helpful and thoughtful.

Wallin said the county Health Department wants the residents out as soon as possible so the homes can be tested for methamphetamine, lead and asbestos before demolition. Wallin said he’ll go house to house to see who’s still living there and when they will leave. He said the Foremans want to stay out of court.

“I’m hoping it all ends on a good note,” he said.

On the other hand, Clay said she’s upset about how the tenants have been treated, from the shoddy living conditions to the 30-day notice of eviction. She said she recently won in small claims court against the Foremans after they improperly had her car towed away in the middle of the night.

“I work every day, he goes to work every day,” she said, motioning towards her finance. “I do not appreciate being treated like trailer trash.”

But Mike Foreman and Wallin said they have bent over backwards to let residents know about the closure.

“There’s been a constant flow of notices and signs since January 2007,” Wallin said.

Foreman said he’s done a lot to help the low-income in the community. The trailer park has long been the shelter of last resort for local residents. The rent is cheap and he takes people when others won’t. He said local agencies, like the Opportunity Council, often call him to house folks.

“I always said yes, we’ll give them a chance,” he said.

Foreman said he looked into updating the trailer park, but the numbers just didn’t pencil out. The 40-year-old trailers are falling apart, the park is in a noise zone from Navy aircraft and the septic system is failing.

If everything works out, Wallin said he hopes to start construction of the funeral home in July.

“We’re going to provide a lot of jobs during the course of this project,” Wallin said. “They are all locals, ex-veterans, people who need work.”

Jessie Stensland contributed to this story.

Mobile home zoning relaxed

The Oak Harbor City Council approved a measure Tuesday night to update the city’s municipal code as it relates to manufactured homes.

The amendments allow manufactured homes in a greater number of residential areas. Manufactured home subdivisions now may be built in R-1, single-family residential zones, and R-2, multiple-family residential zones. Manufactured home parks are allowed in all residential areas except R-1. According to Steve Powers, development services director, manufactured home “subdivisions” look more like a traditional residential neighborhood with homes along public streets and private parking spaces, while “parks” includes common parking, circulation and landscape areas.

The amendments also increase the number of units allowed per acre for publicly owned and nonprofit-owned lots to eight units. Privately owned land cannot have any more than six units per acre.

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