Developer offers package

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Jim Cook and his development group have offered mobile-home owners in Westland Mobile Home Park a relocation package of $4,000 each.

It's an offer he thinks is fair and will give some mobile-home owners a chance to put a down payment on a home. Mobile-home park owners are not legally required to pay anything to park residents if they decide to sell, forcing the park's residents to move elsewhere.

However, many Westland mobile-home owners think $4,000 is not adequate. Ideally, they would like to be reimbursed for the full cost of the homes they are losing.

Westland mobile-home own--er Christina Allevato said $4,000 would not cover the cost of moving her large mobile home to Craig. It also would not cover the security deposit and first and last month's rent if she wanted to rent a home comparable to her three-bedroom trailer.

"I live paycheck to paycheck right now. It's putting me on the streets, basically. I'll be a renter when I was a homeowner," she said.

In February 2004, Cook, representing Riverwalk Steamboat LLC, presented plans to the Steamboat Springs City Council for 50 townhomes and 7,000 feet of commercial space between Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street and Third and Fourth streets. The project would displace 39 mobile homes, which, at that time, housed about 100 residents.

At that 2004 meeting, council members said they wanted the developer to come back with a more concrete relocation plan.

In May, Westland residents were offered a relocation package that included $4,000 for those who owned their mobile homes since April 1, 2003, and occupy them.

Mobile-home owners who do not live in their trailers and those who have rented the mobile home for more than two years are being offered a $1,000 relocation package.

In all cases, the developer is paying to disconnect utilities and remove the mobile homes from the site.

Cook said his group's primary concern is for the owner-occupants and long-time renters living in Westland mobile homes.

"We have no concern for the owner of a trailer who is renting to someone else. We have concerns for the person renting, the tenant," Cook said. "As far as the owner of the trailer, that was their risk."

But many of the mobile-home owners who live in Westland Mobile Home Park do not think the relocation package is good enough.

"I really don't consider it much of an offer," mobile-home owner Bryan Phillips said. "My house can't be moved for that. He just wants to get rid of us, and I think the city does, too."

Allevato said it would cost her at least $7,500 to move her mobile home to Craig, where she plans to sell it. With the cost of moving, putting a foundation under the trailer to meet the new park's requirements and fixing other maintenance problems needed to sell her 1976 trailer, Allevato is not sure whether she will break even.

Allevato said she won't keep her trailer and live in Craig. She wants to live in Steamboat. But it will be as a renter.

One of Allevato's biggest complaints was that the relocation package was not much more than what was offered to Trailer Haven residents three years ago.

In 2002, a group of 11 residents had to leave a coveted spot at the corner of Third and Oak streets and next to Fish Creek. The land was redeveloped into tennis courts for the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center.

The Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Ass--ociation paid Trailer Haven residents $4,000, manager Pat Carney said. The association deducted $500 if the trailer was not removed and also deducted money for disconnecting utilities.

Allevato thinks Cook should have increased the relocation package to keep up with the rise in housing costs, which have skyrocketed since the Trailer Haven deal in 2002.

Cook said the offer was similar to other relocation packages, but he also said that what other parks had done was not a major consideration for the developer.

"It really didn't make much of a difference," Cook said. "It was what we felt was fair. We thought that number would help them."

The actual cost to the developer is probably double the $4,000 figure, after the price of demolishing the trailer and disconnecting the utilities is factored, Cook said.

Several people already have accepted the offer and used the money for a down payment on a house, Cook said. By signing the relocation package early and handing over the title, residents save even more money by getting a $150 to $300 rent reduction, he added.

Once the developers have the title to a mobile home, they plan to sublet the home for $250, which is less than current lot rents.

All Westland Mobile Home Park residents also were encouraged to consult with the Yampa Valley Housing Authority about available affordable-housing op----tions, Cook said.

"Several people have taken the package to use the money as a down payment," Cook said. "Some will take the money, and they will waste it. I can't control that."

But Dan Woycio, who has lived in Westland Mobile Home Park for 13 years and owns a small roofing company, said the $4,000 package does not help him leave a place he doesn't want to move from in the first place.

"I love it here. I don't want to move," Woycio said. "What is $4,000 going to do for me when affordable housing is $300,000?"

He would like to see the city buy the land and sell individual lots back to the owners. Part of the agreement would be for the homes to improve in appearance during the next five years, Woycio said.

"It doesn't look like much, but it is still in a great location," Woycio said of his trailer.

At the very least, he said, Cook should pay the owners the price they paid for their trailers. Woycio said he paid just less than $20,000 for his.

Despite the complaints, plans for the River Walk development are moving ahead.

Cook said the intent is to resubmit plans to the city this summer. He does not anticipate getting final approval before February or March. From the date of final approval, the tenants will be given 180 days to move.

Cook said they would be removing selected trailers starting in 2006.

One of the reasons it has taken so long for the project to return to the council is because changes have been made to the plans, Cook said. The developers have held design meetings and worked with engineers, hydrologists, landscapers and architects.

"We wanted to get it right," Cook said. "It is such a sensitive site, relative to the river frontage."

The project, known as River Walk, proposes 650 feet of river frontage that would have public access and paths along the Yampa River that potentially would connect to Dr. Rich Weiss Park.

Cook said the revised plans significantly increase the number of housing units. The proposal still calls for 10 percent of the housing units to be deed-restricted, and Cook said the intention is for mixed-income residents to occupy them.

Another issue the developers had to work out was the purchase of city-owned right-of-ways on the land. Cook said they have agreed to donate the money that is used to purchase the right-of-ways to the housing authority.

He estimates the cost would be between $700,000 and $800,000, which he said could be used for the housing authority to leverage eight to 10 times that amount.

"I think there was general agreement that was a good plan," Cook said. "It would jump-start a lot of their programs."

Allevato thinks the money from the right-of-ways should go to Westland Mobile Home Park residents.

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