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Proposed development would displace residents

September 10, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK - As the only worker in a family of five, Rita Poffenberger said Thursday she can't imagine how she could afford to move out of a trailer park in Hancock on her $16,000 annual salary.

But being forced from Vista Village Mobile Home Community is a possibility for Poffenberger and 30 to 40 other families who live there.

Washington County developer Steve Sagi has proposed replacing the trailer park on McKinley Drive with 79 residential units for middle-income residents, Hancock Interim Town Manager Lou Close said Thursday.

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Close said the preliminary plan calls for the trailers to be removed from the site. He said he thinks Sagi is required by law to help residents of the trailer park find other places to live.

Close said there are approximately 32 trailers and 54 lots in Vista Village.

Sagi and Steve Zoretich, of Frederick, Seibert & Associates Inc. in Hagerstown, discussed the preliminary plan with the Hancock Town Council at Wednesday night's meeting.

Close said Sagi owns Vista Village.

The proposed development would consist of 64 town houses, 12 duplexes and three single-family homes and would be built on two tracts of land totaling 12.52 acres. Zoretich said the plan also includes upgrading the park's water and sewer service.

Sagi said at the meeting that the homes would cost about $95,000 to $100,000.

"It'll be good for Hancock," Close said on Thursday. "It'll put more homes on the tax rolls."

Close said town officials still must approve Sagi's final plan and that it probably would be a year before the relocation of families is discussed.

Sagi did not return two phone calls Thursday. Zoretich did not return a phone call.

Residents said they've heard rumors about such a plan, but that they've never received official notice from Sagi.

"I think it's stupid, myself," said resident Daniel Golden, who lives in Vista Village with his wife and two sons. His sister, brother and mother also live in trailers there, he said.

Golden, who's lived in the park for about 18 years, said Vista Village needs to be cleaned up but is "a nice little place."

Most residents of the park probably wouldn't be able to come up with the money to move their trailers to another park, Poffenberger said.

Residents said most of the people who live there own their trailers and pay Sagi $200 a month to rent a lot.

She's researched the cost of moving the trailer and was told it would cost about $2,000, she said.

"I make $16,000 a year," Poffenberger said. "Do you think I'll be able to pay $2,000 to pull out?"

Poffenberger shares her trailer with her husband, her mother and her two sons. She said her husband is disabled and unable to work.

"Everybody in this trailer park is not rich. Everybody lives paycheck to paycheck," she said.

Resident Karen Bugle backed Poffenberger's claims.

"You can call this a low-income park," Bugle, 60, said. "I don't know what I'm going to do. I have, like, $7 in the bank. I have so many bills to pay."

Bugle, a widow, said she moved to the trailer park in 1991. She said she couldn't afford to move her trailer and her shed and find another lot to rent in another trailer park.

"It's really devastating," Bugle said.

Jimmy Boyd said he and his family moved to Vista Village after moving out of Orchard Homes in Hancock last year.

That move was hard enough on his family, he said.

"I had to borrow money from my boss to move," Boyd said. "A lot of people up here live week to week."

Boyd's mother, Debbie Boyd, said she ended up buying two trailers in Vista Village "as is" for $500 apiece.

Debbie Boyd said she's afraid the residents will end up leaving the trailers behind because they can't afford to move them.

Residents said families in Vista Village look out for each other.

"It's a community up here, that's what it is," Debbie Boyd said.

Poffenberger said she would hate to see families give up their trailers, because many have worked hard to maintain them.

"Mine ain't the greatest looking ... but it's home," Poffenberger said.

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