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Mecklenburg County spends $420,000 to develop its first canoe trail

An Island in the Lake
An Island in the Lakewww.prolog.org

Mecklenburg County officials agreed to pay Elbert Associates $420,000 for 4.5 acres of waterfront property at Mountain Island Lake, according to Bruce Henderson in the Charlotte Observer.

Former Riverside Mobile Home Park
Former Riverside Mobile Home ParkBruce Henderson

Mr. Henderson writes that, “A former trailer park on the shores of Mountain Island Lake could become part of Mecklenburg County’s first canoe trail.”

Mr. Henderson posted his article “Lake tract could become part of canoe trail” on 12 January 2014. An information update appeared the following day on North Carolina News (www.ncnewsfeed.com)

In a caption beneath a picture of Mountain Island Lake, appears the following message: “Mecklenburg County plans to turn the 4.5-acre site of the former Riverside Mobile Home Park into a park that could include a canoe ramp.”

Mr. Henderson then informs his readers that, “In April, (2013) county commissioners agreed to pay $420,000 to Elbert Associates for the 4.5-acre tract.” Furthermore, “County officials hope to close the sale by the end of March, once the remnants of the former Riverside Mobile Home Park are cleared.”

Mr. Henderson does not clarify what he means by “remnants.” However, there is an earlier news report by Sarah Batista for WBTV. It appeared Tuesday, 16 July 2013.

Ms. Batista writes, “Long-time residents forced to move from waterfront mobile home park.” She adds that, “Neighbors in a waterfront mobile home park will have to pack up and move after decades.”

The “Riverside,” according to Batista, is one of the least expensive areas to live along Mountain Island Lake. “That’s why neighbors say moving will put them in a bind.”

Batista interviewed two residents from the Riverside Mobile Home Park. Carol Pietras lived at the “Riverside” for 14 years. She considered it her “Paradise.”

She remembers that, “We had all planned on staying here, so we updated our homes.”

Then the thirty-day eviction notices arrived. “That put everybody into a panic,” according to Roger Greenspan another resident at the mobile home park. “You can’t imagine what it’s like if somebody gives you 30 days to move.”

WBTV contacted Elbert Associates but the contact person declined the interview. She did say however, that the land was under contract with Mecklenburg County.

She also informed Batista that this was in agreement with the wishes of the original landowner. Once the family’s heirs were no longer able to care for the land, the County had permission to use the land.

There was no mention of the residents. However, several of the residents informed Batista that the family had every right to sell the property. “But having to start all over will be tough.”

According to Batista, “County officials say the park is still in the development stages and it could take several years before it’s built.” That was 16 July 2013

On the same date, journalist Tony Burbeck posted a related news article: “Landlord terminates leases, infuriating residents.”

Mr. Burbeck is a journalist for NBC Charlotte. According to him, about 40 neighbors living in a mobile home park near Mountain Island Lake have to move because the property terminated their oral leases.

“Riverside Mobile Home Park residents say the notice, which showed up in their mailboxes, is unfair and uplifts people who can’t afford to move and who planned to stay at the mobile home park until they died.”

Carol Pietras explained that the property owner promised that, “You don’t have to worry. You’ll be here forever.” However, the first 30-day eviction notice arrived on 15 July 2013.

“There’s no way possible that 15 of us can be out of here in 30 days, some of these people have been here for 40 years,” according to Pietras.

The residents of Riverside Mobile Home Park received two more notices. The first gave the residents until 22 December 2013 before they had to leave their homes.

The second letter explained that surviving family members were only carrying out the wishes of their deceased father. “When it came time to sell, the property would be re-purposed as a park.”

On 6 December 2013, Tony Burbeck posted an update to his July 2013 news article. “Residents fight eviction from mobile home park.”

“Neighbors forced out of a mobile home park plan to file a lawsuit to stop the eviction. They also want to get back money they lost by having to sell their homes so quickly.

“The lawsuit has not been filed, but several neighbors at the Riverside Mobile Home Park say it could be in the next couple of days.”

Their deadline to move out is 22 December 2013.

Carol Pietras is one of the most outspoken Riverside residents. She explained to Journalist Tony Burbeck that, “Everybody is supposed to be out and it’s so sad because we were a very close-knit community.”

Along with the sadness she felt, Pietras also claims she faced some financial hardships. “We all invested money in piers, decks, all this stuff we can’t do anything with. We just have to walk away from it.”

Pietras insists that, “Altogether I probably had $50,000 to $60,000 invested.” However, “She estimates she lost $20,000 to $25, on the sale just to me the deadline.”

Some of the residents admitted to Burbeck that they stopped paying rent once they received the letter to vacate their homes.

When he reviewed court records, Burbeck discovered that the owners (Elbert Associates) filed a complaint against one resident because of $2,220 in unpaid rent.

According to Burbeck, “It’s a back-and-forth battle neighbors thought they would never have to fight, because the owners told them decades ago this spot on the lake would be theirs forever.”

“Some people have been here for 45 years and this was their home. They’re losing everything,” according to Carol Pietras.

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