Residents face mass move if mobile home park sold
Kate Jaimet, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Monday, January 28, 2008
Two hundred and fifty families in Bells Corners face the prospect of mass displacement as an Ottawa developer seeks to buy the long-established Bellwood Mobile Home park and replace it with a subdivision, says city councillor Rick Chiarelli.
"The sale is tentative at this point. It will likely conclude this week," said Mr. Chiarelli, who represents the College ward where the park is located. Mr. Chiarelli added that he intends to reveal the name of the developer at a meeting with residents Tuesday evening.
But the general manager of the park, Scott Kelford, said there is no pending sale of the property.
It is up for sale. We had an offer. We refused it," Mr. Kelford said. "The person we refused might come back, but we're not aware of that."
Established about 50 years ago, the park, behind the Bell Mews shopping plaza, has grown into a well-rooted community with many seniors and young families. With paved streets, city water service, and many residents making improvements to their homes, the community bears no little or no resemblance to a stereotypical trailer park. Residents own their homes but lease the lots for about $400/month.
"They're like modular homes, almost," said resident Nancy Oastler, who lives with her 92-year-old mother. "They've got peaked roofs. I've got a white picket fence, a white porch, a sun-room add-on."
The location puts residents within walking distance of grocery stores, pharmacies and doctors' offices, a boon for seniors who don't drive, said Ms. Oastler.
But when original owner of the park, Ken Hughes, died four years ago, the park passed to his descendants. Now, the heirs have decided it's time to sell the property and disperse the estate, said Mr. Kelford, who is Mr. Hughes's grandson-in-law. The property to be sold amounts to 60 acres, including the mobile home park and the vacant grounds of a former lumber-yard.
"We don't want to see (the residents) displaced either," said Mr. Kelford. "We don't want to see them put out in the cold by any means, but you have to look at our point of view, that we've owned it for pushing 60 years, and we just can't keep it any longer."
Since the lots are leased on a month-by-month basis, residents are afraid that the prospective new owner could force people to vacate their lots in short order. The prospect of losing such affordable and convenient housing has many people worried, said resident Dave Paveley.
"It's like getting rid of an entire community in one fell swoop," Mr. Paveley said. He said that moving a mobile home would cost several thousand dollars, plus the cost of buying a new lot, which many people can't afford. There are no other mobile home parks nearby.
Mr. Chiarelli said that the prospective new owner would have to apply for a re-zoning to build a subdivision on the existing property. No re-zoning or site plan application has been filed with the city yet, he added.
If city council refuses a re-zoning application, the developer could appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.
"The worst case is a re-zoning happens, and (the residents) are ordered out," Mr. Chiarelli said.
He said other options include: convincing the developer to build on the vacant former lumber-yard, but leave the mobile home park standing; or convincing the developer to buy out the existing residents.
Mr. Chiarelli said a mass relocation of residents to another property is "an outside possibility," but there are no available properties nearby.
The neighbourhood meeting takes place Tuesday night from 7 to 9 pm at the Christ Church Bells Corners, and will include a briefing by a city planner, followed by a discussion with Mr. Chiarelli.