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After years of contention, No Go Largo Village to close

A mobile home park owner previously cited for numerous code problems has announced a plan to evict current tenants and turn the park into an owner-occupied modular home community.

"I think Largo wants gorgeous, new affordable housing as much as Pinellas County and as much as we all do," said park owner Andrea Trani, president of Key Largo Communities.

Old trailers at the park, formerly known as Sunpiper, would be replaced by "new Key West modular dream houses in bright tropical colors," Trani said in a statement.

One-, two- and three-bedroom homes, starting at about $65,000, would have features like front porches, granite counters, tile and hardwood floors. Homeowners would rent their lots.

The new community at 1760 Clearwater-Largo Road would be called Kokomo. The owners had previously changed the park's name from Sunpiper to No Go Largo Village because it contested the city's annexation of its property.

The company's news release cites the need for affordable housing for the "community's work force heroes," such as police, nurses and teachers.

Meanwhile, current residents are worried.

Thursday afternoon, some of them received notes on their units that said, "All tenants must vacate within 30 days."

And for those who have not paid their rent, the notes said, "You will be removed by the Pinellas County Sheriff!!!"

Signs in the park's office window said, "New Home Sales Only at this Park!!! 1760 is closing for rentals. No rental tenants can remain."

Some tenants said they were afraid they would be thrown out within days.

"Everybody's going to be on the streets," said Jason Mcfarland, 21. "It's not right."

But Deborah Berry, operations manager for Pinellas County Justice and Consumer Services, said the owners must file a lawsuit to remove tenants to evict them for nonpayment of rent.

"They get their day in court. The judge decides whether or not they should be evicted," Berry said. "Even if you don't leave in the 30 days, they're not supposed to physically force you out."

John Smith, who lives at the park with his girlfriend and 2-year-old son, Dillon, is worried about relocating his family.

"I need a two-bedroom, and I make $900 a month," said Smith, 42, who is on disability. "It's horrible when you don't know where you are going to go."

Some residents said the owners had talked of bringing in new units for at least a year. But many were surprised at how abruptly they were told to leave.

Some are upset or angry, but a couple said they don't blame the owners at all.

"The city's been breathing down their back since they bought the place," said Brad King, 48.

In 2006, city inspectors condemned 13 rental units and cited the park for 150 violations of city codes after an initial sweep netted more than 30 violations.

The owners sued the city, challenging the condemnations and whether the park was legally annexed a year before they bought it.

Permits would be required to remove old units and bring in new ones, Largo building official Ken Andrews said.

Trani, 57, said her company plans to file the applications within the next few weeks even though she doesn't think her property is even in Largo.

"We don't have a choice," she said. "Pinellas County can't take over until the courts are finished."

After years of contention, No Go Largo Village to close 03/01/08 [Last modified: Saturday, March 1, 2008 5:02am]
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