Trailer demolition serves as painful reminder

Westland Mobile Home Park residents continue to worry about their future relocation

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Westland Mobile Home Park residents awoke Wednesday morning to the sounds of a trackhoe and dump truck -- painful reminders that their homes are disposable.

Developer Jim Cook removed the first trailer Wednesday from the mobile home park at the corner of Fourth and Yampa streets. Cook, representing Riv-erwalk Steamboat LLC, plans to redevelop the land along the river into townhomes and commercial space. He has yet to receive final approval from the city, which is needed for the project to begin.

Mobile homeowners were off-ered $4,000 each for their trailers. They have been told they have until next summer to move out.

Stuart Lynn said it was not until 7 a.m. Wednesday that he was aware the home was being removed. The unoccupied trailer had been purchased by Cook, and some neighbors were worried that it posed a safety hazard because children were playing inside it, Lynn said. But tearing it down was an unnecessary reminder of the residents' fate, he said. He thought the home should have been boarded up instead of being torn down.

"It is uncalled for, at this point," Lynn said. "We are still a neighborhood. They shouldn't start bulldozing down houses."

When Riverwalk plans first were presented to the Steamboat Springs City Council, the pro-ject was expected to displace 39 mobile homes, which house about 100 residents. Since then, many in the neighborhood have moved out, mobile homeowner Christina Allevato said.

Allevato, who helped lead the effort to preserve the park, said her heart ached this morning when she saw the first home being torn down and taken out of the park piece by piece.

"It hurt my heart. I knew it was happening and expected it. You can help what you think, but you can't help the way you feel," she said.

Allevato said she recently met with Cook to ask for a better deal in the relocation package.

Under local and state laws, owners of mobile home parks are not required to pay anything to residents asked to move off site.

In February 2004, Cook presented plans to the council for 50 townhomes and 7,000 feet of commercial space between Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street and Third and Fourth streets. At that meeting, council members said they wanted the developer to come back with a more concrete relocation plan.

In May, homeowners were offered a relocation package from Cook. The relocation package included $4,000 for those who have owned their mobile homes since April 1, 2003, and also live in them.

For those who own mobile homes but do not live in them and for those who have rented their mobile homes for more than two years, Cook is paying a relocation fee of $1,000. In all cases, the developer is paying to remove the mobile homes and to disconnect utilities.

Cook could not be reached for comment Wednesday. He previously said the offer was similar to what other mobile home parks in the area have done. He also has said it was an amount he felt was fair and would help the mobile homeowners.

Representing Westland mo--bile home tenants, Allevato asked Cook to allow mobile home- owners to split with the Yampa Valley Housing Authority the money raised from the city's sale of its rights-of-way on the land.

Cook has estimated the worth of the rights-of-way at between $700,000 and $800,000. He has offered to donate that money to the housing authority. Allevato thinks some of it should go to mobile homeowners, who will be the most affected by the project.

Allevato also asked that a $6 per square foot fee be passed on to the purchasers of units in the development. The money, which Allevato said would increase the cost of the units by about 1.5 percent, would go to the mobile homeowners.

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