Deerfield residents fight to save

mobile homes from development

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Susannah Bryan
Published June 7, 2005


DEERFIELD BEACH In all of his 85 years, World War II veteran Ray Blanchette has faced many fears, including his own mortality as war buddies perished beside him in battle. Now Blanchette is facing another fear -- his impending eviction.

For more than seven weeks, Blanchette and his neighbors have worried they might be forced out of their homes at Tidewater Estates.
On April 15, residents received word from owner David Newmark that a developer had made an unsolicited offer to buy the 124-unit park. Though not required to do so by law, Newmark offered to give the residents a chance to buy the park. They had 45 days to come up with $11 million.

During the following few weeks, 50 residents formed a co-op to buy the park, but late last week the deal fell through when Newmark, of Boca Raton, refused to sign the contract, Blanchette said.

Newmark, who declined comment Monday, would not tell residents why he was walking away from the deal, said Blanchette, president of the Tidewater Residents Association.

Residents have not yet received eviction notices, but by law must be given six months to move from the mobile home park, which lies east of Military Trail and south of the Hillsboro Canal, giving it waterfront access.

Blanchette, who paid $27,000 for his mobile home in 1975, said he was not about to leave. "I'm not moving, I can tell you that. I'll sue them, that's all."

Homeowners' associations have the legal right of first refusal when an owner puts a park up for sale, but not when the offer to buy is unsolicited, said Don Hazelton, president of the Federation of Manufactured Home Owners of Florida in Largo.

Residents don't know who has offered to buy the park.

"These folks are going to be homeless," said Marty Pozgay, president of Florida Community Services Group, which was working with residents to help them buy the park. "They are not going to be able to move their homes."

State subsidies would pay residents up to $6,000 to move the homes. But many are too old to be moved and will have to be left behind, Pozgay said. Residents who abandon their homes would receive $2,750.

Dozens of mobile home parks have closed in the past decade, swallowed by condos and townhouses, Hazelton said. The rising value of land in the state is driving the trend, he said.

"It's like the breakup of a family," Hazelton said of parks that close. "Some people move into other mobile home parks. Some move into apartments if they can afford it. Others move in with their kids."

Moving in with a relative is not an option for Blanchette, whose 58-year-old daughter lives with him. On Monday, Blanchette fumed at home.

"I'm mad as a hornet," he said. "This is not freedom. This is happening because of greed."