[Be sure to watch the video documentary above.]
December 13, 2018
by Arnaud and Naja Girard
Is the County circumventing the relocation requirements for mobile home park redevelopment?
The new owners of three mobile home parks on Stock Island have filed for redevelopment as Wreckers Cay Apartments at Stock Island LLC, 75% of which is controlled by the multibillion dollar private equity firm Lubert-Adler.
The mobile home owners at Wreckers Cay are facing a January 31st eviction. They hired an attorney. Many of them have owned their homes for decades; some have paid as much as $50,000 for their mobile homes.
The residents are hanging their hopes on Florida Statute 723.083: "No [local government] shall approve any application for rezoning or take any other official action, which would result in the removal or relocation of mobile home owners [...] without first determining that adequate mobile home parks or other suitable facilities exist for the relocation of the mobile home owners."
The problem is the redevelopment application was filed nearly 6 months ago but the County's relocation assessment has not even begun.
In the meantime, residents tell us, Wreckers Cay management has deployed heavy-handed tactics to get people to move out of the park. Last week John B. Agnenti, an attorney representing several of the park residents, notified the park owner that its agents have disconnected the cable tv lines and removed all street lights. Garbage is pilling up. Jose Guevarra, the community organizer who sought an attorney for the group in the first place, was summarily evicted from his mobile home lot last month, even though he had placed the rent money in the registry of the court.
As we reported in our September 23, 2018 documentary [Mobile Home Park Redevelopment: "Worse Than a Hurricane"], redevelopers of mobile home parks often follow a textbook method: massive evictions are carried out before the local government makes the required relocation analysis. By the time they get in front of the government board the relocation issue is moot.
In his September 25th Wreckers Cay memo to county officials, County Attorney Bob Shillinger relies on a 2008 case:
"[T]he Courts have held that park owner can initiate eviction and removal proceedings prior to and independent of the County's determination. See Gallo v, Celebration Pointe Townhomes. 972 So.2d 992, (Fla. 4th DCA 2008)"
However, that ruling created such outrage at the time that two years later the Mobile Home Act was amended to close the loophole. The legislative bill analysis explained that the judge's interpretation in the 2008 case was based on a “mistake” contained in the law.
The 2011 amendment made it clear that a lack of availability of relocation facilities for mobile home owners does directly affect a mobile home park owners' right to evict mobile home owners in order to redevelop its property:
"The bill deletes subsection (3) of s. 723.061, F.S. Currently, this subsection provides that the provisions of 723.083, F.S., do not apply to any park where the provisions of “this subsection” apply. There are no provisions governing parks under the subsection. Prior to its amendment in 2001, this provision was included in a paragraph within subsection (2) of 723.061, F.S. The provisions in subsection (2) were deleted in 2001. Therefore, the language in subsection (3) appears to have been mistakenly preserved after the 2001 amendment. However, courts have interpreted this provision as precluding the application of s. 723.083, F.S., when a mobile home park owner gives notice under s. 723.061, F.S. Therefore, the bill clarifies that the provisions of s. 723.083, F.S., which requires the government to consider the adequacy of parks for relocation, apply when a mobile home park owner gives notice under s. 723.061, F.S." [page 7 of 10, Bill Analysis, SB650, March 7, 2011]
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