Basalt trailer owners fear their future may be grim
Residents of the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park are clinging to promises that they will be compensated for their residences now that redevelopment of their neighborhood appears inevitable.
Deborah Farrell, secretary of the mobile home park’s homeowners’ association, said the preference of many residents is to be left alone.
“Our dream would be to buy it out and live there forever,” she said.
That’s unlikely to happen, they realize. A group of investors headed by Chicago-area businessman David Fiore has a contract to purchase the 51-unit mobile home park for $4,025,000.
The residents have the right of first refusal. The working-class families that live there cannot raise the money. Pitkin County officials and Aspen Housing Authority officials have said they can’t supply the funds, Farrell said.
The prospective new owners are interested in redeveloping the property, not operating a mobile home park.
Farrell said that after years of uncertainty about the status of the park, she and other residents are tired of worrying and are becoming resigned to their fate.
“We’re willing to move if we’re bought out,” said Farrell. “We don’t want our homes stolen from us.”
@ATD Sub heds:Government promises
@ATD body copy: Various officials have promised they will be compensated. Farrell said she has received assurances from Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland that the county board will look after their interests.
The mobile home park is in the heart of Basalt – between the Roaring Fork River and Highway 82, kitty-corner from the 7-Eleven store. Nevertheless, it has never been annexed into the town. It is split between unincorporated Pitkin and Eagle counties.
Farrell said Ireland told her that unless the trailer owners are compensated for their residences, the property will remain a mobile home park. Ireland couldn’t be reached to confirm the statement Thursday.
Basalt town government also has leverage. Redevelopment would almost certainly require annexation into the town. The Town Council members have indicated they would require the trailer owners to be compensated as part of a redevelopment proposal.
“They’re going to be compensated,” said Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt. “I would die before those people would be kicked out without getting paid.”
@ATD Sub heds:No longer fits Basalt’s mold?
@ATD body copy: Most Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park residents own their trailers and pay rent for the spaces. Farrell said she has paid off her three-bedroom, two-bath, double-wide trailer. She pays $527 per month for the space so her housing is as affordable as it gets in the Roaring Fork Valley.
She said she is luckier than many of her neighbors, who are still paying off their trailers.
As a 17-year-resident of the mobile home park, she’s quite content living there. She said it’s a nice place to live and doesn’t fit the stereotypes of most trailer parks in the country.
Nevertheless, she said, she believes Basalt officials have decided they want it removed.
“We don’t fit in with what they want Basalt to look like,” said Farrell. “We’re not pristine and pretty. We’re trailer trash, they think. [But] we’re not.”
Along with at least one resident on the Levinson property, which the town purchased last year, Farrell said she is suspicious of a flood study that Basalt undertook two years ago.
That study concluded that the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park, the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park and the Levinson property residences were in the floodplain or floodway of the Roaring Fork River. The study said property damage was certain and loss of life was possible in case of a major flood.
The mobile home parks were targeted for redevelopment as a public safety concern. Upstream commercial buildings that appear to be in locations just as precarious haven’t been targeted for removal.
“They want us out, and the flood plain issue is the way to get us out,” said Farrell.
Whitsitt said the town’s flood mapping wasn’t politically motivated.
The town government has never held a meeting specifically for Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park residents to explain results of the flood study. That likely contributes to suspicions.
@ATD Sub heds:Put it in writing
@ATD body copy: Basalt’s River Stewardship Master Plan contemplates leaving the part of the mobile home park closest to the river undeveloped. Land farther back from the river could be developed, if proper engineering steps are taken.
Fiore said he and his partners will propose a project with a mix of commercial and residential uses. He also said he is interested in working with the town on a number of options to address the residents’ needs.
In addition to having a board policy requiring compensation for displaced homeowners, the town has a replacement housing regulation. It requires 100 percent of all affordable housing to be replaced when displaced by redevelopment.
Farrell said she and other mobile home park residents feel somewhat assured by what they have heard from government officials. They would feel a whole lot better, though, if they saw those promises in writing, she said.
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