NORTH ADAMS -- Residents of the Wheel Estates Mobile Home Park are collaborating with two nonprofits to receive technical assistance in their effort to purchase the park from its private owner.
Tenants Association President Sandra Overlock and Vice President Jesse Martinez met with the Mobile Home Rent Control Board on Monday to request a rent increase aimed at covering prospective loan payments and capital improvements in the park.
Also in attendance were Mary O'Hara, director of Resident Owned Communities (ROC) USA, and Andrew Danforth, a representative from the Cooperative Development Institute.
Both organizations help residents of mobile home parks in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire purchase privately-owned parks up for sale.
"This is the first time we've been in a situation where the model had to be implemented in a rent-controlled environment," O'Hara said.
Under state law, tenants of a manufactured home community that is for sale have the right to make an offer that is equal to or better than the sale price.
Property owner Morgan Management signed a purchase and sales agreement with Real Estate Seekers LLC on Dec. 27 for $2.73 million. Residents plan on matching the current sale price with a loan from ROC USA, but must do so before March 27. Such a loan is not yet approved.
If the residents succeed in their efforts, the park would be incorporated under a nonprofit organization with a board of directors.
But members of the Mobile Home Rent Control Board weren't sure Monday how they could accommodate the residents' request for a rent increase of an undetermined amount and how to help facilitate the purchase of the park from Morgan Management.
"This model doesn't fit with how the board operates," Chair Wayne Wilkinson said. "The way we are set up is the petitioner petitions us for an increase, but the board sets the rate."
While the majority of the board was supportive of the residents' plan, they were hesitant to take action at Monday's meeting, and decided to take the issue up again in a meeting Wednesday, March 13.
Board member Joseph Gniadek expressed concern at the idea of setting a rental rate to cover a loan to both purchase the park and make improvements. The board has dealt with property owners who have requested rent increases to cover upgrades and then never implemented them, he said.
Marie Harpin, board member and a city councilor, expressed concern than no other residents were in attendance.
Overlock said 101 households have already signed a membership agreement, and more have expressed interest. Residents have become frustrated with infrastructure issues at the park such as old roads, she said.
"[Residents] don't want to go through this with another company again," she said. "They want to be able to have a say on what needs to be done."
To reach Edward Damon, email