Possible Westland relocation detailed

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— Westland Mobile Home Park residents know the demolition of their homes is all but certain.

But what many still don't know is what happens next and what kind of relocation assistance they may get. The residents could be asked to leave their homes in as few as six months.

To Westland resident and homeowner Christina Allevato, it's a scary proposition.

"The days are ticking, and I'm not sure how much money I have," Allevato said. "Right now, I have nothing."

During their meeting last week, Steamboat Springs City Council members approved a change of use for the mobile-home park, which is home to about 150 people. The conditional use permit -- which will allow for demolition of the park -- came at the same time as the approval of a development plan for a project called Riverwalk, which would take the place of the mobile-home community.

If Riverwalk's final development plan is approved, it will bring commercial space and more than 70 residential units to the banks of the Yampa River, between Third and Fifth streets.

The future of the park's residents has been on the mind of Yampa Valley Housing Auth-ority officials, who last week presented a preliminary relocation plan to City Council members.

Seeds for the plan were planted by the Housing Authority's mobile-home subcommittee, which met several times to discuss recommendations to the Housing Authority board, board member Nancy Stahoviak said. The board reviewed the group's recommendations, as did Riverwalk project developer Jim Cook and some Westland residents.

The council will make the final decision about what happens with any money it receives from the developer for the relocation of park residents. Still, the Housing Authority needed to have a role in the process, even if it was preliminary, Stahoviak said.

"I felt that the need for us to come up with some type of recommendation was important," she said.

The authority's relocation plan is based on what council members and Cook said during a February meeting. At that time, the council discussed donating $250,000 to residents; Cook said he would match that amount. Last week, Cook said his $250,000 would first go toward unpaid mobile-home rents and other expenses.

The Housing Authority's board voted 7-3 in favor of the plan that was presented to the council. One of the plan's major recommendations was that the mobile homes' values be assessed using 2003 actual values. The homes were worth more in 2003, the year Cook took ownership of the park.

The plan differentiates among owners, residents and renters. The recommendations are that:

People who live in and own their mobile homes will receive 85 percent of the home's value. Residents must have lived there continuously as their primary residence.

Owners who rent their mobile homes will receive 30 percent.

Renters will receive $1,000.

These suggestions apply to ownership and residency as of April 30, 2003.

Residents who already have accepted assistance and who transferred their homes' titles to Cook will not receive more money.

Stahoviak said she played a role in selecting these percentages, and she said there was some disagreement about them. In particular, she said, board members did not agree about whether owners who rent their homes should be compensated.

The board also disagreed about whether the money should be used only for housing costs for displaced residents, Stahoviak said. In the plan, the Housing Authority suggests that the council not restrict the use of money; however, the plan states that authority officials "hope that relocation assistance would be used for securing housing in Routt County."

Allevato was pleased that the plan suggests that residents can use the money as they choose.

"I think there should be no strings attached to the money," she said. "We all worked really hard to pay for the mobile homes." She also liked that the plan used the 2003 values because they are worth more.

Allevato, however, thinks that residents and owners should receive more compensation. Owners who live in their homes should receive 100 percent of their home's value, she said, and those who rent their trailers should receive 50 percent of the value. She does not think renters should receive any money.

The Housing Authority's plan also suggests that if $500,000 doesn't cover the relocation assistance, the city of Steamboat should contribute. Leftover money, however, should go to the Housing Authority for housing purposes, which would be determined by the City Council.

The council also will determine the fate of Westland residents. Stahoviak said she hopes that the Housing Authority's plan can act as a good baseline for council.

"We're just putting something on the table that we hope will be a focus for their discussion," Stahoviak said. "We're trying to help give them a starting point."

-- To reach Dana Strongin, call 871-4229 or e-mail dstrongin@steamboatpilot.com

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