Trailer Haven tenants ask city for help

Avi Salzman

— The residents of Trailer Haven trailer park, sent warning of their impending eviction by the local health and recreation association, are now going to the city to ask for help.

With four other residents of Trailer Haven trailer park standing behind her Tuesday night, Nancy Preston read an eviction letter to City Council, urging council to help them in a debacle that could leave them without lots for their trailers in less than six months.

The Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Association sent the tenants of the trailer park notices just before Thanksgiving warning them that they would be evicted from the property as of May 1. Trailer Haven, a trailer park with a total of 12 trailers and cabins, nine of which are currently occupied, was bought by the association in May from private owners Dave and Sue Oakley.

The trailer park sits on Fish Creek Falls Road roughly behind the SSHRA’s Lincoln Avenue buildings. As is the case in many trailer parks, the owners of the trailers do not own the land underneath their homes. The residents of Trailer Haven are on 30-day leases with their landlords.

Two owners of cabins on the Trailer Haven site have already had to leave.

“The letter states that the board of Health and Rec. understands our situation,” said eight-year resident Seth Bograd, speaking after Preston. “We don’t believe they do. We feel the board has been insensitive to our needs and interests and inconsiderate and uncaring with regards to our plight.”

The residents asked City Council to help them find a way to stay in the community. But whether that means helping them in their negotiations with the SSHRA or helping them find land or money with which to relocate, they were not sure.

Stuart Handloff, the president of the SSHRA board, said the board is not interested in any mediation efforts with the residents. He said past mediation efforts have quickly become “uncivil” and, though he hopes the residents can find new spots for their trailers, the parties do not have anything to mediate.

“As far as we’re concerned, there weren’t any mediatable issues, no questionable legalities,” Handloff said.

In response to a comment by local affordable housing advocate Rob Dick that the association had a “moral obligation” to find new homes for the displaced trailer park residents, Handloff said the moral obligation does not rest solely with the SSHRA.

“We need to put money towards bridging the gap between what buyers are willing to pay and sellers are willing to sell,” he said. “The moral obligation is no more ours than it is yours or City Council’s or the county commissioners’. It’s the entire community’s moral obligation to find affordable housing solutions.”

Understanding that it is often extremely difficult, if not virtually impossible, to move a trailer, Handloff said the board decided to offer the residents $4,000 each if they can get their trailers off the property and clean the site by May 1.

The nonprofit association needed to buy the property to expand its service to the community, said SSHRA Manager Pat Carney.

“The place is jammed right now,” Carney said. “Our charter states that we should meet the recreational needs of Routt County. We need more space just for what we do right now.”

As of next summer, the association is planning to begin construction on tennis courts on the trailer park site while turning the old tennis courts into a parking lot, Handloff said. The SSHRA also has long-range plans that include expanding their swimming facilities and possibly offering more programs for children, Handloff said.

“They’re giving parking a higher priority than affordable housing,” said Douglas Lockwood, a trailer park resident.

The residents of the park, however, may not need to deal with the SSHRA if the city can help them relocate.

Lockwood gave council copies of an intergovernmental agreement from September 1999 in regards to grant applications for the Regional Affordable Living Foundation. The IGA includes language to the effect that the city and county would agree to work at adopting an antidisplacement plan that would require them to help relocate any residents of low- or moderate-income housing. That language, attached to the agreement allowing the city to help RALF apply for grants, may not obligate or even suggest that the city take any specific actions to help the residents. It has, however, gotten the city staff, at the request of City Council, to start working on the problem.

City Manager Paul Hughes said the IGA is not applicable to the trailer park residents’ situation but that he has forwarded the information on to the city’s Intergovernmental Services Department in the hopes that they may be able to find some funding or other mechanisms to aid in relocation.

Many of the trailer park residents said they have attempted to find new lots for their trailers on their own without success. Handloff agreed finding affordable land in the area is a difficult enterprise.

“There is no place for a mobile home to go in Steamboat Springs and probably not within 20 miles,” he said.

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