Kenneth Lowe – H&R Staff Writer
DECATUR – Mary Fetrow has lived in her double-wide mobile home at 2284 N. 36th St. in the Garfield Estates mobile home park for the past 19 years. She and her late husband, Bill, put the sort of work into the property that makes it a home rather than just a house: a long deck, a shed and a rocky pathway her husband dug himself. Fetrow hosted 27 people there for Christmas Eve.
“Bill’s put so much work into it,” she said, sitting in the kitchen of her house, surrounded by the possessions she and her husband accumulated over a long life. This is our home. We’ve lived here for 19 years.”
Soon, she will need to leave it all behind.
Fetrow was watching television this month when she heard a knock at the door. She answered it to find the property’s maintenance worker holding a letter that informed her the property owners were selling Garfield Estates. The property will cease operations in January 2010.
The property, owned by Michigan-based Choice Properties, is immediately north of Faries Parkway off Brush College Road. Representatives of Choice Properties would not disclose who has purchased the property.
The Jan. 8 letter from manager Kamal Shouhayib informs residents of an opportunity to relocate at the landlord’s expense.
“It is the landlord’s objective to improve both economically and physically, the living situation of each resident who takes advantage of this unprecedented proposal,” the letter reads.
Meeting with representatives of the company, Fetrow found herself with few options.
“Some of the things they threw at us, they were just trying to ramrod us,” she said.
The relocation agreement, which promises residents a $400 cash incentive and up to $2,000 in moving costs for a mobile home or $4,000 for a double-wide, comes with conditions that Fetrow said gave residents little time to think. The deadline for signing up originally was set for Jan. 20 but has been extended to Saturday, said John Rogosich, Choice Properties senior regional manager.
The relocation agreement states that the incentives are only granted if, among other things, mobile home owners opt to move to either the Park City or Hyde Park mobile home communities, both of which are owned by Choice Properties.
Residents had only until Tuesday to sign the agreement, giving them less than a week to decide if they would opt into the deal. The deal also requires that the move be completed by July 15.
“I can adapt, but that’s not the point; it’s just that they’re trying to rush us through,” Fetrow said. “This is just such a blow to me, because it’s not even a week. I ordinarily can handle things pretty well, but this had been something else.”
There are other difficulties for people who have invested a great deal of effort into their mobile homes. Fetrow said movers will not transport things such as her deck and shed, which she and her husband spent time, effort and money installing.
Sheila Clinger is another homeowner at Garfield Estates who feels unfairly treated by the sudden announcement. She and her husband, Frank, have lived atGarfield Estates since 1974.
Frank Clinger said Wednesday that he and his wife would not be signing the agreement. Sheila Clinger said the agreement came up too quickly, and she felt forced into making a decision that would benefit the property owners.
“They expected you to sign within two days,” she said. “They weren’t going to give you time to think about it or nothing. The only way they’re going to help you is if you move to one or the other of their two trailer parks or, if your trailer is not good enough to move, buy through them. If you want to do anything else, you’re on your own.”
Rogosich said efforts are being made to try to accommodate the needs of Garfield Estates residents.
“We understand that a lot of people have lived here 10, 15, 20 years.” he said. “The president of our company and founder of our company, him and myself have spent the whole week last week here talking with people, making explanation. We will help them in the best way possible so they will have less pain.”
Rogosich said the deadline for opting into the relocation agreement could be extended again in the interest of helping residents.
“We are proud to be providing affordable housing for low-income people,” he said.
Mary Fetrow wonders where she will be this summer. Management of Garfield Estates Trailer Park sold the grounds and gave residents until July to get out. They were offered a relocation package but tenants were told they only had two days to accept it.
Frank and Sheila Clinger have been told they have to move from Garfield Estates Trailer Park where they have lived for 34 years.
Heather Fetrow hands out fliers about a meeting for residents to discuss their options after being told they have to leave by July.