WDAY: The News Leader

Published May 04, 2014, 08:15 AM

Residents struggle with closure of Fargo trailer park

FARGO – Joanne Vetter, a resident of Selkirk Settlement Mobile Home Park, said she and many other tenants of the south Fargo community’s two dozen trailers have had some tough decisions after receiving a notice earlier this year that the park will close in July.

By: Maureen McMullen, INFORUM, WDAY

FARGO – Joanne Vetter, a resident of Selkirk Settlement Mobile Home Park, said she and many other tenants of the south Fargo community’s two dozen trailers have had some tough decisions after receiving a notice earlier this year that the park will close in July.

Moving out will be a financial burden for many of the residents of the trailer park, Vetter said. Some residents also say that despite getting a six-month notice, they have struggled to arrange to have their trailers moved in time. And some have also said there’s a shortage of empty lots in the area, and parks that do have available lots might not be able to take older trailers because they don’t satisfy newer safety codes.

“It’s put a lot of us into the hurt locker,” Vetter said. “I know if my parents weren’t helping me, I’d have to file bankruptcy or sell my home; those would have been my two options.”

Although Vetter’s parents have helped her pay for the move, she said she is still struggling to assemble money to transfer her utilities, which will cost about $950, and to re-skirt her trailer, the cost for which she has yet to receive an estimate.

“Every time I turn around, there’s another expense,” said Vetter, a registered nurse. “I’ll be working a lot of extra shifts.”

Part of Hector sales

Selkirk is owned by Fred and Earlyne Hector of FMH Co., and the property it sits on is one of several tracts of land the major landowners in the Fargo area have recently sold or put up for sale.

Though the property doesn’t have any prospective buyers yet, Jonathan Garaas, the Hectors’ attorney, said the decision to close Selkirk and sell the land stemmed from the Hectors’ desire to simplify their lives.

“In the process, the trailer park is sort of a headache,” Garaas said.

Any development of the land where Selkirk is located would require adherence to the city’s river setback rule as well as elevating the land above the 100-year flood mark.

“The city has the riverfront setback coordinates, so a good portion of the land isn’t developable,” said City Planning Director Jim Gilmour. “When it flooded in the past, it looked like a lake around those trailers.”

Moving costs steep

Terry Hagen of West Fargo said his mobile home services company “does a majority of the moving” in the area, and he usually charges about $3,000 to move a singlewide trailer.

“That all depends upon the size of the home,” Hagen said. “It varies quite a bit. It depends on how much the owners are willing to do.”

Kevin Jackson, who’s lived in Selkirk for five years, expects his moving expenses to greatly exceed $3,000. Aside from moving his trailer, he said he’ll need to pay to re-skirt his home, rebuild the decking and reinstall frost spears.

“When it’s all said and done, we’ve got $17,000 set aside to move this, and I think we’ll use every bit of that, if not more,” Jackson said. “I know there’s a lot of people who don’t have the money to move it; it’s just not an option. So, I think some of them that are just walking out and turning to the bank because they don’t have the availability to move the trailer, so that puts them in a real financial bind.”

Timing a challenge

Tenants were offered early departure proposals, which included three options:

- Leaving by May 19 will bring a return of the security deposit and February, March, April and May rent.

- Leaving by June 19 means May and June rent is returned, as well as the security deposit.

- Leaving by July 19 mean’s July’s rent is returned.

Tenants who move out after July 19 will not receive any returned rent.

Although FMH Co. issued the notice the required 180 days prior to the property’s closing, tenant Leroy Copeland said the deadline, combined with the area’s harsh winter, left tenants not enough time to move.

“At first you think, wow, we’ve got over six months, that’s good,” Copeland said. “But you’ve got to consider, too, then, somewhere around three of those months, it’s winter. You really can’t do a lot of the stuff that needs to be done outside.”

Though Hagen said it is feasible to move trailers during the winter, moving during the spring “gets to be a chore.”

“For most of the work in the spring, you’re laying down in mud,” Hagen said. “It makes it much, much easier when the ground is firm.”

Hagen agreed the timeline could pose a challenge to residents trying to move their homes.

“I don’t know who’s moving the other ones, we couldn’t do it ourselves,” Hagen said. “I think we have maybe seven or eight that we’re going to be moving. As far as our timeline, we can get that done, but one company doing 30 homes – good luck.”

With limited open lots in Fargo, Copeland said he and several of his neighbors experienced difficulties finding mobile home lots that would accommodate their homes.

“There are certain mobile homes that are too old or too big; they won’t get accepted into any new mobile home parks around this area,” said Copeland. “You send (mobile home park managers) pictures of your home and an explanation. You wait about a month, and then you hear back. In the meantime, what do you do except sit there and stress about not having a place to move your place to?”

Some expected move

For some residents, the closure came as less of a surprise.

“We’ve known it for years that, eventually, it was going to go away,” said Blaine Paulus, who’s lived at Selkirk with his wife, Julie, for 34 years. “The last couple of floods we had really clinched it,” said Julie Paulus.

“(The Hectors) have been more than good to us,” she said. “They’ve been concerned, you know, ‘Have you found anything? What’s going to happen with your home? Are you going to be OK? Did you sell it? Can you sell?’ They have been 100 percent.”

Although Julie Paulus said she’s sad to leave her home of more than 30 years, she greeted the move with optimism.

“It’s like I’m coming out of a cocoon; it’s like somebody dug us out from underneath a rock,” she said. “But, we’re seeing the daylight; we have a new place to go to. We knew it was coming sooner or later. The new place is a new adventure, and we’re excited.”