A mobile home park owner in Vermont is giving current residents the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to take over ownership of their own community instead of selling the property. But, are they ready for the challenge of becoming cooperating commercial real estate operators? Some aren't so sure.
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The Lakeview Mobile Home Park is up for sale, as part of the owner’s plans to transfer the property as a resident-owned cooperative.
The 64-unit park, tucked just off Shelburne Road, is home to around 100 residents and has been in the family of Burlington businessman Trey Pecor for three generations. Residents own their homes, and lease the land beneath them.
Dale Arango, chief financial officer at ferry operator Lake Champlain Transportation Co.,which is owned by the Pecor family, said owner Trey Pecor felt it was time to give the residents a chance at “directing their own future.”
“There’s no intention of closing the park, there’s no intention of selling it off to somebody,” Arango said. “This is really about creating an opportunity for the residents to own their own community.”
Pecor sent a letter to residents by certified mail on June 29, informing them of their rights and the decision to sell. He also shared the asking price for the 7.39 acre parcel: $2.4 million.
Under Vermont law, mobile home park residents essentially have a right of first refusal if an owner decides to sell, along with a 45-day notice period to determine if they are interested. If residents choose to purchase the property, they have an additional 120 days to negotiate with the owner, according to Arthur Hamlin, the state’s housing program coordinator for mobile home parks.
The state considers a mobile home park a property if it has three or more mobile home lots.
Hamlin’s position includes overseeing the sale and closure process of parks to ensure it is done legally and that tenant rights are upheld.
Seven parks in the state currently have active sale notices, he said.
Options for the residents include purchasing the land as a cooperative, or finding a public housing agency, such as the Champlain Housing Trust in Chittenden County, to acquire it.
The park owner is not required to sell to residents if the offer is too low, under state regulations.
“There are some good-faith requirements, so the owner of the park can’t turn down the offer, and then sell it to someone else for nearly the same amount,” Hamlin said.
Hamlin said he has received calls and emails from residents worried about the sale notice for the Lakeview Mobile Home Park.
Retiree Chris Pratt, who has lived in the park for nearly two years, expressed his concern in an email to Trey Pecor that was shared with VTDigger.
Pratt wrote that he has invested at least $80,000 into his mobile home, and that most of the other residents have $40,000 to $50,000 on the line. He said most of the homes would not survive a move.
“Yes, perhaps the people can get together and form a coop and give Pecors millions more that they now seek,” he wrote. “I am sure most of us will want to explore this option as it is really the only one we have. It is our only hope.”
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