Exchanges became heated at a recent meeting between ownership/management and residents of a gated mobile home park in Modesto regarding new regulations.
Rules going into effect in May 2016 at The Grove Manufactured Home Community on Held Drive use vague wording that opens the door to discrimination, several residents said.
A short sampling of what those rules prohibit: “Frequent late night and/or early morning social or business gatherings at your space”; “frequent” bicycle, foot or vehicle traffic to and from homes for “short visits”; “frequent open consumption of intoxicants” at homes; and “the uttering of profanity outside the home … loud enough to be audible to persons passing by.”
A few residents turned to the Stanislaus County Mediation Center and the Senior Advocacy Network/Senior Law Project for help. A representative from each attended the Oct. 14 meeting.
As the broad-ranging rules – which also include items on trash bin placement and what type of furniture is permitted in driveways – were discussed, residents frequently spoke up from the audience of roughly 100. “With these new rules, I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone to buy my home,” one man said.
Karen Nielsen, a 16-year resident of the park, said, “You’re ruining our lives.”
“I signed a 15-year lease nine years ago, figuring this would be my last home. It won’t be now,” Jim Perry told owner Todd Green of Hillsboro Properties, who led the meeting.
Green told the residents, “If you look at other comparable parks in the area … five-star parks, you will find similar rules and regulations.”
Challenged to define “frequent,” Green said a number of times that could reasonably be considered excessive. “We’re not stopping coffee klatches,” he said when asked about frequent early-morning social gatherings.
IF I COME THROUGH THE GATE IN MY CAR AND HAVE A CIGARETTE IN MY MOUTH, I’M IN VIOLATION.
Sherry Estep, Grove resident, saying smoking restrictions go to far
Several residents said limiting smoking to inside the home – not even in their cars – is too restrictive. Two people stood to say they live next door to neighbors who smoke outside their homes and they cannot smell the smoke. They said there’s enough space between homes that it’s not bothersome.
Green responded that what’s enough for space for some would not be for others, and “it’s not practical for neighbors to work it out among themselves.”
Asked by residents what consequences would be faced by violators, Green said, “We’ll deal with it fairly, sensitively … We’re not looking to evict anyone over smoking.”
He heard a brief uproar when he made clear that San Mateo-based Hillsboro Properties’ intent in having the meeting was not to get input from residents and consider revising the rules and regulations. It was simply to explain them. There will be no revisions, he said.
“You’re wasting our time, then,” one resident shouted, then got up and left the meeting with a few people sitting near him.
“There’s nothing to address,” Green told the room. “We’ve changed the rules and regulations. They haven’t been updated since 2001, and 15 years, in our judgment, is too long.”
Some residents voiced their support for the update. Those in dispute with management and the owners are “just a couple of people nitpicking nothing,” Alan Coon said. “If you look at all the parks in the area, we have to be one of the cleanest. … Where they see a problem, a lot of us don’t see a problem.”
THE BIGGEST THING HERE IS DISCRIMINATION. THEY’LL LET ONE RESIDENT DO SOMETHING AND ANOTHER CAN’T.
Patty Johnson-Martinez, Grove resident, speaking about what furniture and other items residents have been told may be in driveways
But specific topics like smoking or drinking aside, the problem with the rules, said Mark Galvan, senior case manager with the Stanislaus County Mediation Center, is vague wording such as the use of “frequent.” And he said the worst thing he saw in the document is a sentence that reads in part, “the manner and method of enforcement lies solely within the discretion of the management.”
At a follow-up meeting in a residence, attended by about 18 people, he told the group to let him know if anyone gets a warning or notice or has a confrontation with management.
“I’m neutral; I handle each case individually,” Galvan said. “I take it so far. I try to get written agreement. My goal is not to have to send it to Joyce (Gandelman, attorney with the Senior Law Project) or another local attorney.”
Gandelman added, “I think there are constitutional issues here. I really think they’re limiting freedoms,” referring to smoking and the consumption of alcohol at residents’ spaces. She also said the profanity regulation could be a free-speech violation.
Catherine Borg, legislative advocate with Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association, said she understood Hillsboro Properties’ reasoning in not making wording too specific.
Mobile home community regulations use such wording to address illicit behavior such as drug dealing. “If you were a drug person, you’d have more frequent, short visits to your home,” she said. “It seems doubtful they’re trying to get people for having wine.”
Having a regulation that specifies, say, three short visits a day would be a mistake, Borg said. “You can never write a rule or a law that would capture exactly what you’re thinking you’re trying to capture. … Laws or rules have to be generally written if you’re trying to capture the behavior they’re trying to target.”
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327 http://www.modbee.com/news/article40514712.html