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Mobile Home Park Residents Buy Their Community

By Janet Marshall
Times Staff Writer ~ Times   Sunday, March 1, 1998                           

SEMINOLE — Worried their mobile home park could be sold to a developer and destroyed, the residents of one Seminole community pooled their money and bought the park.

The Edgewater Pines Mobile Home Park is now the Edgewater Pines Resident-Owned Cooperative, a distinction that frees residents from the worries felt by their counterparts at the nearby Lake Seminole Campsite.

Campsite residents are nervously preparing to be forced out by Home Depot, Which plans to buy the land by the end of March and build a store on it.  Edgewater Pines residents, by contrast, say they have peace of mind.

“I feel a lot more secure knowing that somebody isn’t going to come in and wipe us out,” said Helen Noyes, one of about 65 Edgewater residents who bought a $20,000 share in the park. 

Edgewater residents, all over 55, had been thinking of buying the park for about two years.  The idea took root after two of them heard a presentation two years ago by a representative from the Brandywine Community Services Corporation which helps mobile home owners buy the park they live in.

After that presentation, the homeowner’s association got in touch with Brandywine president Tod Eckhouse.  The park was not for sale at the time.  But residents thought owner Lowell Easter might be interested in selling it and they wanted to fend off developers.

When Eckhouse found out a few months ago the park was for sale, he arranged the purchase, which became final Jan. 30.

“I think that Home Depot thing got them a little concerned,” Eckhouse said.  “They didn’t want to leave, so they felt (buying the park) was a good thing to do from a business point of view and an emotional perspective.”

Easter sold the park to the residents for $2.4-million, Eckhouse said.  About 65 residents bought $20,000 shares, either with cash or through loans.  The remainder of the $2.4-million will be paid through a mortgage loan the residents took out with Easter.

Residents who did not buy shares will keep paying rent, which will help pay off the mortgage.  Owners will pay a $100 monthly maintenance fee, part of which also will be used to pay off the mortgage.

What happened at Edgewater is happening more and more throughout the Pinellas County, where 72 parks are resident-owned.

“It’s becoming very common,” said Charity Cicardo, executive director of the Federation of Mobile Home Owners of Florida.  “It’s a great thing for the residents.  They’re not trying to make a profit, they’re just trying to maintain their community.” 

Residents often band together to buy their parks because they get fed up with rent increases, Cicardo said.

But Edgewater residents said they had no gripes against former owner Easter.  They just wanted protection from what is happening at the Lake Seminole Campsite.