Baltic mobile home owners struggle to find new locations as moving deadline looms
BALTIC, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Writer Nancy Gibbs once said, “Progress is seldom simple; it comes with costs and casualties.”
While many in Baltic are optimistic about the new land development progress in their small town, some are concerned about who could be paying the cost.
A mobile home park currently sits on land slated for redevelopment. People living in that park face a deadline of July 1 to vacate or move their homes.
Kenneth Baatz Jr. is one of those residents. As a construction worker, he is happy to show off his handiwork.
“I’ve sheet-rocked, the whole inside, textured primed, painted. Put all new kitchen cabinets in, new faucets. Started inside. The outside: built a new shed, did all this work myself while I worked a full-time job,” said Baatz.
Within weeks of finishing the flooring and trim, he received a letter that changed his life.
“And now I have to walk away from everything I’ve done,” said Baatz.
Baatz and his neighbors received a notice to vacate their mobile homes from the property, which is planned for redevelopment. The problem is, he and some of his neighbors are struggling to find a new place to move their homes.
“Nobody wants a ’69 mobile home in their park, no matter how nice it is. Personally, feel that it’s a beautiful home, torn up. How are you supposed to feel? I’m going to be homeless,” said Baatz.
“The key part is home.”
Steve Fodor took time off from work to show us the newly replaced windows and siding at his place.
“It may be a mobile home, but the key part is home. I’ve been there for 13 years,” said Fodor.
Fodor said he received a letter dated March 1 saying the mobile home park property had been sold. Eight days later, another letter signed by Grant Park LLC President Brian Hefty arrived. It said Fodor needed to relocate his mobile home by July 1, but if he left by May 20, he could get $1,000. Another option was to abandon the mobile home for Grant Park LLC to dispose of.
“You know, how would you feel if somebody woke up one day and checked the mail, and somebody told you had 90 days to move your house or sign a deed and we’ll destroy it for you? That’s pretty much what we got,” said Fodor.
His home doesn’t meet the standards of acceptable siding at Sioux Falls mobile home parks, and the moving expense of $3,500 to $6,000 is daunting.
“I don’t have that kind of money,” said Fodor.
Hefty declined an interview, but did provide a statement saying Grant Park LLC is working with mobile home owners to help them find somewhere to move. Tenants were given three months of free lot rent. Their water, sewer, and garbage bills were paid from April through June.
“I feel devastated.”
At the same park, Julie Hammond met us at the empty site where her daughter’s mobile home once stood.
“I feel devastated,” said Hammond.
Hammond co-signed an $18,000 loan for her daughter last September. She said it was an affordable way to have her daughter close by to receive care from family for health issues. Six months later, her daughter received the letter telling her to move.
The home is now at Highland Heights in Sioux Falls, 30 minutes away. The Sioux Falls park owner is financing a $13,000 loan with no interest, covering the move and upgrades. Hammond wishes the park owners in Baltic showed such compassion.
“I hope that Grant Park will come back and recognize that these people do need more help, and that they will help them with what they need case by case,” said Hammond.
“I want the assessed value of my property,” Fodor said. “Hey, that’s it, write me a check, and I’ll walk away and you can destroy it.”
“They don’t want to compensate me for it. They don’t want to buy it from me. What do I do? Hoping this interview does something for their conscience,” said Baatz.
Assistant Attorney General Tim Bormann says the laws regarding mobile home lot renters are more complicated than renting apartments or homes. A law requiring a 90-day notice to evacuate has been followed, with Grant Park LLC providing 113 days.
Bormann says the Consumer Protection division may be able to help.
“In a case where it’s a mobile home type of situation, they try to get the two sides to work together,” Bormann said. “It has to be an agreement that the two sides can live with because it’s not quick and easy to just jack up a mobile home and haul it to the next spot.”
“I’m going to be homeless.”
For now, Fodor plans to stay.
“And until they come with some legal documentation, delivered by the sheriff signed by a judge, I’m not going anywhere,” said Fodor.
We spoke to others from the Baltic Mobile Home Park. One former resident says he is living in his truck, while another is living in a camper.
“All they saw were trailer houses, I see a lot of people that don’t have homes now. I see a lot of people that were misplaced, and they don’t know what they’re going to do,” said Hammond.
“I’m going to be homeless. Thanks to them wanting to make millions of dollars, I get to be homeless. Thank you,” said Baatz.
Hefty’s full statement:
“As a lifelong Baltic resident, I am trying to do what I can to help the city continue to grow and develop, as our town identified a need for more commercial space and multi-family housing. We are working with mobile home owners to help them find somewhere to move their units to, and in the meantime we are providing them free rent, free utilities, and a financial bonus for moving early.”
Dakota News Now also reached out to the City of Baltic, but did not receive a response.
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