Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post
December 3, 2012
OCEAN BREEZE PARK — Betty Johnson, 73, has lived in Ocean Breeze Park in Martin County for many decades, longer than she can remember.
Her little mobile home in the back corner of the 55-and-older community is full of knickknacks, and little sailboats she painted herself decorate the side of the home.
But next year could be her last in the 45-acre, riverfront community after the Ocean Breeze Park Homeowners Association filed for bankruptcy in August.
She and about 350 other residents learned Friday they could have until Nov. 30, 2013 to leave their homes if the HOA accepts a deal presented by the mortgage lenders.
"I've been here a long, long time," Johnson said. "I don't know what the hell is going on here, but it's got me very upset."
She's not alone in her frustration, as was evident at the meeting Friday attended by more than 100 residents where the HOA board members broke the news and had three police officers there to keep the peace.
The lenders and owners of the property, Gary Hendry, Cathie Teal and Marcia Hendry-Coker, are descendants of the original property owners Harry and Queena Hoke, who founded the park in 1938.
About 130 residents, including Johnson, united to buy the property from the Hoke descendants in 2008, but the cost proved too much, resulting in more than $20 million in debt.
Hendry, Teal and Hendry-Coker offered Aaron Wernick, bankruptcy attorney for the HOA, the deal that would allow residents to stay on the property until the end of November 2013 while still paying rent, mortgages and property taxes. Then, the residents must leave or risk eviction.
"What kind of heart do these people have?" Diane Kim, 56, shouted out at the meeting.
Wernick said, "We proposed every which way to try to keep this a park and they were firm. They just want the property back."
Wernick's words were met with the angry mutters and occasional community outcries during the hour and a half HOA meeting.
"I love it here, and I'm not moving!" said Frank Unterberger, 84, who has been living in Ocean Breeze Park as a snowbird for 35 years.
"It's sad, really, to think about it," said Ruth White, 79, who has lived in the park for 25 years.
The final decision to dismiss the bankruptcy, which protected the community from foreclosure, is Dec. 16. If the HOA board accepts the deal from the lenders, the clock begins ticking for residents to find other living arrangements within a year. If the deal is turned down, residents could face eviction even sooner.
Harry Bartlett, president of the Ocean Breeze Park Homeowners' Association, said he wished things had turned out differently.
"This board has tried their very best," Bartlett said. His voice cracked as he spoke the last words before the meeting adjourned. "I'm sorry."