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Steve Terry looks over stakes and weeds in his old neighborhood: the former Eagle Point Mobile Home Park. Photo by Phyllis Fletcher.

Steve Terry looks over stakes and weeds in his old neighborhood: the former Eagle Point Mobile Home Park. Photo by Phyllis Fletcher.


Mobile Home Owners Seek Stability

Phyllis Fletcher

The Snohomish County Council is scheduled to decide today whether to block owners of mobile home parks from evicting homeowners and redeveloping the land. Steve Terry admits the mobile home park where he used to live in Marysville was attractive to a land developer. He says all of them are. "First of all, it's partially developed," says Terry, "they're almost always built on fairly level ground where it's easy to redevelop. And it's usually a good–sized chunk of land."


It was called Eagle Point. Steve Terry moved there in 1989. When Marysville was a lot smaller.

Terry: "I'd wanted to live in a town that was small enough that the feed store was the main local feature. Unfortunately, that was also the year they put in the Fred Meyer's, which should have told me something."

Marysville was about to grow. Eagle Point Mobile Home Park had growing pains soon after Steve Terry moved in. Problems with crime and drugs. The park was called Marysville Meadows back then. But Steve says police helped him and his neighbors clean the place up. The owners renamed it Eagle Point. And things were good for a while. But Steve says the voter–approved Growth Management Act was the beginning of the end of Eagle Point. It's a state law designed to prevent urban sprawl.

Terry: "This puts incredible pressure on anything that's within the urban growth boundary. Most of the cities really don't want to increase the density in their area, so the development comes out here, and it's all a matter where can a builder get a large chunk of land at what seems to be a reasonable price. So, it happens."

So it happened that Patrick McCourt and his company Barclays North bought the Eagle Point Mobile Home Park in 2005. Steve Terry says a lot of people at Eagle Point were mad at Patrick McCourt. Because he evicted them for a project that would make him a lot of money.

McCourt: "It's interesting to me that the party that is often times placed on the pedestal at which the arrows are shot is the party that's developing the property. All we're doing is responding to the demands, and the demands are, 'Snohomish County's going to increase by 300,000 people in the next 20 years; where are they going to be housed?'"

Patrick McCourt had a plan. Buy Eagle Point. Give homeowners and tenants the one–year notice required by law; then redevelop the land and sell it to builders. And he did something he didn't have to do. He set aside about a $1 million. And paid to help people move.

Wayman: "I think I figured it up one time and it came to about $45,000."

Delores Wayman had been living at Eagle Point just two years when she got her one–year eviction notice. She lives alone except for her four cats.

Wayman: "Finnegan, Figaro, Frinkel Dinkel and Smudge."

And a goffin cockatoo.

Wayman: "Snicker."

How do you move a house, a bird and four cats? Well, money helps. So Delores told Patrick McCourt's company what she needed.

Wayman: "They offered to pay for me to live someplace for a month, to put my cats and my bird in a kennel, to move my furniture and stuff, and to move my house."

Her whole house. You might think that's easy with a mobile home, because the word mobile is in the name. But you'd be wrong.

Some mobile homes are set into the ground. The house is fine where it is, but the floor can trap moisture and become too unstable to move. Delores was lucky her house wasn't like that. At first, it looked like her movers did a pretty good job. They split her house in two right down the middle, and moved the two halves to her new home – a plot of land in a mobile home park in Sedro–Woolley. They lined up both halves precisely and put everything back inside. Delores says it was impressive to watch. But when she moved in, she noticed some problems.

Wayman: "They were supposed to replace this door because they broke it. And then the door here somehow got broken."

Fletcher: "What does it look like?"

Wayman: "It looks like somebody hit it."

And left a hole the size of a fist. The overflow drain in Delores' bathroom sinks just drop water into her cabinets. The movers never connected them to drainpipes. They never reconnected her alarm system or her back doorbell. They didn't re–wrap the pipes under her house. They froze last winter and left Delores without water for a month. And a roofer told her her entire roof is attached to her house with just three nails.

Wayman: "So every winter when it starts getting windy, I'm like, oh, jeez!"

Delores is grateful for the help she got to move. She thinks she got as much as she did because she had a lawyer. And she was a squeaky wheel. She was sad to see her neighbors got next–to–nothing.

Wayman: They had five or six kids. Barclays gave them $800. They were trying to help everybody. Well, they helped them just to walk out with $800. That wouldn't even be enough to get into an apartment."

Delores says a backhoe destroyed their home a few days later.

Patrick McCourt doesn't know whose house that was. They could have been renters. The state gives a few thousand dollars to homeowners who have to move or abandon their mobile homes. The money comes from homeowners. When someone buys a mobile home in Washington state, they pay $100 into the relocation fund. The state says the fund is draining faster than it's filling up.

If the family Delores feels bad about was renting, they got more than they were entitled to–which was nothing.

Patrick also doesn't know why Delores' house got so banged up. I showed him pictures.

McCourt: "I think that Delores needs to contact the moving company that was hired to do that. And if it was us, then she should contact us. Although there is no 'us' anymore, because Barclays North is one of the victims of the global economic meltdown, and our company closed its doors after 20 years over a year ago."

And Eagle Point is mostly empty. Patrick developed the land and sold it for a profit to builders. Now the development has a version of its old name: The Meadows in Marysville. It was supposed to fill up with 287 houses and condos. But only 72 of them are done. And many of those are unsold. Maybe that's because of the view.

McCourt: "It has no life. There are a few homes in there that families have moved into. But the balance of the plat has weeds. It has wires sticking out of the ground in portions of the property that are yet to be completed."

It has exposed concrete foundations, waiting for houses.

The land is owned by banks now. Some of it belonged to Michael Mastro until a couple weeks ago. He's a developer too, based in Seattle. He's also the subject of what could be the biggest bankruptcy case in Washington state history.

Patrick McCourt says people if people have a problem with land developers, they should do something about it.

McCourt: "My stance has always been that if you don't like the way something is happening, then go to your elected officials and push to have the codes or regulations changed."

And it was standing room–only last week when mobile home owners packed a hearing room in front of the Snohomish County Council. People wore neon green T–shirts with outlines of Washington state. They said mess with me, and you mess with the whole manufactured housing community. Speakers identified themselves as retired, low income, or both. They pleaded with the Council to pass an ordinance that would keep something like Eagle Point from happening again, in unincorporated areas of Snohomish County.

Hurlocker: "We cannot afford to move our home to another location, even if we could find one."

Zane: "I don't think I'd live through it, personally, because I love where I'm at."

Parks: "All of these people are actually a class of people that should be rewarded because they have chosen to live within their means."

The reward would be a law to block landowners from turning mobile home parks into something else.

The few landowners and developers who spoke called the proposed ordinance illegal. Political. A slippery slope.

Palmer: "In effect, we believe it's stealing our property value."

Spencer: "It's everybody's responsibility to provide affordable housing. Not just these property owners."

Sekulich: "If we can start randomly taking property, rezone their futures away, we can do it to anybody in the future."

Someone heckled that guy.

Sekulich: "What we could do potentially –"

Cooper: "Sir? Sir? You need to keep your remarks to the council and not... excuse me... excuse me, just one minute."

The Snohomish County Council chair says other towns and counties in Washington state already have laws similar to the one they're considering. Marysville has a draft version to consider this fall.

Delores likes her new mobile home park in Sedro–Woolley. She says it's quieter than Eagle Point. And it's owned by an older couple. She hopes they never sell.

Steve couldn't move his house. It would have fallen apart. It was built in 1977 and had already moved once. And it's hard to find mobile home parks – let alone one that will take a house from the 70s, like his. Steve says park owners want newer homes to keep up their property value.

So he lives in an apartment now. He used his $3000 from the state to fund his move. He still likes mobile homes.

Terry: "They certainly make good housing. On the other hand, I don't think I would buy another one unless I owned a piece of land to put it on."

Fletcher: "Why not?"

Steve laughs and gestures to the weeds and empty foundations where he and his neighbors used to live.

Terry: "Look around you. That's why."

Developer Patrick McCourt grew up in a mobile home. Last he knew, it was still standing on the farm he grew up on in Wisconsin. He doesn't have his own house anymore. He lost it to foreclosure. He says he's renting in Arlington. And he doesn't know what he'll do next.

I'm Phyllis Fletcher, KUOW News.

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