Trailer park residents plea for help
Residents of a Basalt trailer park pleaded with town officials and a developer Tuesday night to help remove them from squalor and perennial flood threats.Janette Hernandez put a face on the plight of the 40 families in the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park when she vented her frustration over the seemingly endless discussions about moving them out of harm’s way.She told members of the Town Council and planning commission during a joint meeting that the predominantly Latino residents of the trailer park feel like “you guys” don’t care if the residents drown.A town consultant’s study showed the Pan and Fork and adjacent Roaring Fork mobile home parks face a significant threat to lives and property because they are vulnerable to flooding on the Roaring Fork River.Hernandez also questioned why help isn’t available to people who live in deplorable conditions.”I think many of your dogs live better than us,” Hernandez said.Park owner Renee Ritchie agreed that something needs to be done to help the residents. “The people in my trailer park live in such horrible conditions,” she said, noting that she owns the land but not the trailers. There is a ban on moving in new trailers because of the uncertain fate of the park.Hernandez said people tolerate the conditions because it is all they can afford while working low-paying jobs. Her emotional presentation was a sharp contrast to discussions about land-use regulations that dominated a hearing over the Roaring Fork Club’s expansion proposal.The club owners applied to build 36 affordable housing units as part of their plan. The majority of the units would be replacement housing for Pan and Fork residents.But the details haven’t been hammered out yet. There is no guarantee the trailer park residents could afford the new units without financial assistance from the town, the developers or some other entity. And there is no plan to make sure other families won’t move into the vacated trailers.”If people can move right back into the trailers, how is that a solution?” planning commission member Bernie Grauer said.Councilman Chris Seldin thanked Hernandez for her comments and assured her the board is concerned about the residents.”My concern is we could go forward and build this and you couldn’t afford it,” he said.Hernandez said an opportunity to own a home instead of a trailer would spur her and her neighbors to find the “guts” to make changes to make the dream a reality. Her husband could take a second job, she said, and she would seek a higher-paying job. She said they would do whatever it takes, if they could just have the opportunity.Yanina Toranza-Johnson, who works with the Pan and Fork residents as a program coordinator with Mountain Regional Housing Corp., a local nonprofit, said a survey showed 100 percent of the residents want to remain in Basalt. They consider it their home. About 60 percent of them have lived in Basalt between six and 10 years.”I urge the entire community to please remember these people are our residents,” Toranza-Johnson said. “If you want to preserve the community, you preserve the people.”Like Hernandez, she told the town officials that the trailer park residents want a chance, not a handout. “They have two or three jobs, and if necessary they will get a fourth,” she said.Toranza-Johnson also noted that many of the residents have strong ties with extended families that will help. “If they don’t have the money for this project, they will get it,” she said.The Town Council and planning commission decided they want to keep considering the Roaring Fork Club’s proposal, in part because it could provide replacement housing for the Pan and Fork. But it will require months of meetings before the review is complete.Toranza-Johnson said all the park residents were aware of Tuesday night’s meeting and were anxiously waiting word of the outcome. After the meeting, Hernandez said she was frustrated because she didn’t know anything more about the park’s future than when the meeting started.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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