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Tenants won't be able to buy Talent mobile home park

TALENT — Tenants' efforts to purchase the manufactured home park where they live appear to be dead barely a month before the park is scheduled to close permanently.

Old Pacific Mobile Village, located at 232 Talent Ave., is scheduled to close July 4.

"That's it. It's over. It was a long, hard fight," said Teri Tankersley, a five-year park resident and president of the cooperative that was formed to try to buy it. "We were all very hopeful, but the hope started to die, and people put in their notices to vacate."

People who worked with residents said two factors stymied the purchase: few tenants remain in the park to shoulder the financial burden; and the current owners have not responded to their purchase offer.

"There are institutions out there who could loan money to help residents buy their park," said Deane Sargent of Ashland, whose PMC Financial Services has helped residents of 40 home parks home across the nation arrange financing for purchase.

"But in this place you are taking a big leap to loan to a group of four to five in a park that should have 40 families," Sargent said.

"You are counting on refilling the park to pay the debt," he said. "You need a partner. We just aren't getting any interest."

In February Sargent presented an offer of $1.2 million to the Dorothy Brook Limited Partnership, which owns the park. He said no response ever came from Barry Brook, trustee of the partnership.

"The offer we gave them was a hell of an offer in this market," said Tony Woller, an attorney who works with Sargent. "He just sat on it and sat on it. Had he acted quickly we might have made a deal."

Woller said 90 percent of the financing could have come from a Farm Home Administration loan. A small amount of equity would have been required to complete the deal.

Calls seeking comment from Brook were not returned. Attorneys Jamie Hazlett, who represents the partnership, and Doug Gard, who has been handling the closure, declined to comment.

Park residents formed Valley Verde Cooperative in 1997 to explore park purchase options. Rich Rhode, of the advocacy group Oregon Action that assisted residents in three parks closures in Southern Oregon, worked with the group from its inception.

"It has been trying both from the standpoint of community, building and tearing things apart, and as a first model for other parks in Southern Oregon moving forward," said Rhode. "If we had a cooperative seller we could have built that co-op as the purchaser."

ACCESS, Inc. and Rogue Valley Community Development Corporation, which work to provide affordable housing, both declined to take a management role in the buyout, Woller said.

"In the end, both of them felt they didn't have the capacity to take on the project," he said.

Jackson County Housing Authority also was approached, but declined to become involved. The park offer was withdrawn on May 19.

Tenants were notified in June 2008 that the park would close on July 4, 2009. The park has 49 spaces, and 23 were occupied in July 2008. There are now just five occupants.

Residents are eligible under new state laws for reimbursement and other assistance. Park owners must help residents relocate their homes or find other housing with amounts varying from $5,000 to $9,000 depending on the type of structure. Abandoned homes are the park owners' responsibility. A tax credit of up to $5,000 is available depending on individual tax situations.

Tankersley, the president of the co-op, said one resident has lived in the park for 30 years and another for 20. She said a sense of community was born with the co-op effort, reflected by Christmas decorations that were put up in 2007 for the first time years.

"We lost good neighbors through this process," she said. "These are people I'll hold near and dear until I die. That was the rupture this (closure) caused."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboom8929@charter.net.