Mobile home park residents facing new removal effort


Residents of the Ev-Mar Mobile Home Park in Savage are facing a new attempt to evict them after attorneys for the park's owners filed a series of lawsuits in Howard County District Court charging them with unlawfully staying there after the park's scheduled closing June 1.

The Monday filings came after the lifting of a temporary restraining order Friday that blocked the park's closure.

The eight families named in the new District Court action have sought to block the closure, which was announced in May 2004, claiming there is no place to move their homes and that they cannot afford to move.

The estates that own the 6.8-acre site on Gorman Road want to clear it of residents for redevelopment as permanent housing.

Elisabeth Evans, who lives in Ev-Mar with her husband, Kalvin, and their five children, said the family owes $50,000 on its three-year-old, double-wide manufactured home, but plans to leave by July 4 to avoid a physical eviction.

The Evanses can't afford to move the unit, she said, and even if they sell it, the price would not pay off the mortgage.

"We're not freaking out; it's not paralysis," she said about her day-to-day emotional state, but she is also worried about seeing a county deputy sheriff at the door one day.

Lawyers for the residents said more court appearances and appeals would occur before any evictions take place.

"We believe our case has merit," said Phillip Robinson, deputy executive director of Civil Justice, the public-interest Baltimore law firm trying to stave off eviction for the families who remain. "We're deciding on our next step."

Walter S.B. Childs, an attorney for the owners, has not returned a reporter's calls.

Vince Patrick, a leader of the remaining handful of residents, said they will continue the court battle even if every resident is forced to leave because they feel Maryland law does not adequately protect residents of mobile home parks in the hot housing market.

County Judge Diane O. Leasure lifted her temporary restraining order blocking the park's closing at a hearing Friday. Her move came a day after Robinson won a round in District Court when Judge Pamila J. Brown ruled that residents could pay their monthly lot rentals into an escrow fund because of the poor physical condition of the park.

The owners had sought to evict the residents for nonpayment of rent. Robinson argued in that hearing that conditions are so bad, based on a county health inspector's report May 2, that he created the escrow account for residents to deposit their $392 monthly lot rent.

The inspection showed gas and oil tanks, sharp hurricane straps from departed trailers, open wells, abandoned buildings and trailers, rubble and old appliances littering the wooded property.

County housing officials have helped some low-income residents to move with Section 8 federal rent subsidy vouchers since last year, and the county offered up to $2,500 in moving expenses. But many of the trailers in the park are too old to move, and residents say they can't afford moving costs that could amount to more than $10,000.

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