Pinellas Commission wants landowner to provide relocation assistance to displaced Briarwood RV residents listen07/09/13 Roberto Roldan
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About 50 low-income residents are worried they are going to lose their homes when the Briarwood RV Park in Largo is redeveloped. Tuesday they took their case to Pinellas County Commissioners, who put off the rezoning decision for 30 days.
Commissioners voted unanimously for the continuance in order to work with the propertyâ€™s developer to set up a relocation fund. They hope it will help the residents to afford moving and relocating to a new mobile home park. Christine Allamano with Gulf Coast Legal Services represents 11 of the remaining residents. She said without extra assistance, many of the residents will not be able to move off the property.
â€œThe average, as Larry told you, he spent $1,200 to move. He was rebate his last months rent by the park, Jessica and Peter were rebated their last monthâ€™s rent, however, theyâ€™re now in the hole. They are in a position now where they may be our first family that ends up homeless, because in August they have to come up with the rent and theyâ€™ve exhausted their savings. They tried to do it on their own, theyâ€™re in, but August first I donâ€™t know whatâ€™s going to happen.â€
The property developer, represented by attorney Ed Armstrong, said they have returned to residents their $400 rent checks and have helped identify new RV parks for them to relocate to. He said the developer has no legal obligation to the residents and has already done more than enough to assist them.
â€œAnd I very respectfully put back to the commission the question, â€˜If you were the owner of this park, what else would or could you have done to negate impact to campers who have to live elsewhere. I donâ€™t know if thereâ€™s a lot.â€
Many of the current and former residents of the park are on a fixed income of less than $1,000 a month. Commissioner John Morroni said the board fears that kicking the remaining residents off the lot without more help would only add to Pinellas Countyâ€™s homeless population.
â€œTo echo the comments of some of the other commissioners, we just donâ€™t want to contribute to one more homeless person in this county.â€
The rezoning plan, which received unanimous approval from Largo City Council, will allow development of 260 market rate apartment units on the property. The issue will come up again during the commission's August 6 meeting, though they won't take comments from the public. Commissioners hope that by then all Briarwood residents will have received assistance moving off the property and that no residents are forced in to homelessness.