Lake Worth trailer park accord reached

Article Courtesy of Palm Beach Post

Wednesday, May 5, 2005


LAKE WORTH The drama is finally over for residents of Tropical Trailer Gardens, the mobile home park that has been either without power or reduced power since the hurricanes hit in September.

Besides a dozen or so trailers, the park was deserted Tuesday morning. The last of the residents have vacated the trailer park at 1841 Seventh Ave. N.

Cathy Lively, the attorney representing 15 residents who sued park owner Wes Cox over the lack of power, said the residents and Cox have settled.

"It is an amicable settlement that will give the plaintiffs an opportunity to move on," Lively said Tuesday. Lively said she could not comment on the terms of the settlement because of a confidentiality agreement.

Cox declined to comment.

Melvin Mogul, who lived without power until he moved to a new park on Florida's west coast in November, said he is "ecstatic."

His new home has a fenced-in yard, central air conditioning and heat, he said Tuesday.

"The park is so large, I can't walk around it," said Mogul, one of the residents who sued. "Everything's so clean, so nice. I don't have to worry about drug users and the whole mess. I'm lucky."

His former neighbor, Annie Johnston, who also sued, isn't as cheerful. She lived without power for two months and then with power in only half her trailer until she had it towed to another mobile home park Monday. After all the attention the case received, Johnston said she just hopes for some privacy.

"I'm looking forward to putting it behind me," she said.

Park residents spent months without power or reduced power after Hurricane Jeanne blew out the park's power distribution system in September. They lived out of coolers, ran cables from one side of their trailers to the other, and borrowed money to buy generators. Some stopped paying their rent.

Lively estimates the park had about 35 to 40 residents in September, whose monthly rents ranged from $250 to the low $300s.

In December, a group of residents went to court seeking an injunction to force Cox to restore their electricity. They argued that Cox refused to repair the park's power distribution system, which was weathered and outdated before Jeanne ravaged the park, because he planned to shut it down and expand his nearby warehouse.

By then, Lively said, "Some of the residents left. Some of them sold their trailers. Some of them did indicate that they may have been afraid to enter into the legal system."

At the time, Cox said he felt the city blocked his attempts to make the repairs to the dilapidated system. The city asked him to hire an electrical engineer to draw up a schematic plan to completely redo the system, which would take months and thousands of dollars, he said.

Since then, Cox and his tenants have been in and out of court. One judge ruled a temporary fix was not possible and another said later that residents could withhold half their rent because of the lack of power.

Tony Rotiroti, who lived in Tropical Trailer Gardens for 11 years, moved into another trailer on 10th Avenue North April 1. Before that, only half of his trailer had power so he joined the group that sued Cox.

In his new home Tuesday, he was running two air conditioners, he said with a laugh, adding that he no longer has to pull plugs to make room for cooking equipment or his computer or "trip over cords at night to go to the bathroom."

"I feel relieved I can go on," he said.