Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Walden Pond owners vow to raze units, clean up park

“It’s absolutely appalling,” council member Judy DeBella Thomas said of living conditions in Walden Pond.


“It’s absolutely appalling,” council member Judy DeBella Thomas said of living conditions in Walden Pond.

NEW PORT RICHEY — The city is close to reaching a settlement with owners of the dilapidated Walden Pond Mobile Home Park to raze dozens of decaying units there, as well as cleaning up garbage and debris on the site.

City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday evening to pass an emergency resolution that would allow New Port Richey to raze 52 unoccupied mobile home units in the park, just off U.S. 19 on Oelsner Street. The building department has condemned those units as unsafe structures.

The city can either demolish the structures itself or enter into a settlement with the company that owns the park, Walden Pond LLC, to raze the units and clean up the site by a certain deadline, assistant city attorney Jim Lang told council members.

Tampa lawyer Bryan Sykes, who attended the meeting with Paul Beraquit, one of the owners of Walden Pond, asked the council to allow his clients to clean up the park. He pledged the company would have a contractor hired by the end of the week.

Sykes told the council that conditions in the park deteriorated after Tropical Storm Debby severely damaged the site and most tenants stopped paying rent. His clients sent a letter to residents saying the park would close effective July 31 — though city officials said the owners failed to give enough notice and not all residents received the letter.

That set off a scramble, with some residents vowing to stay, others moving out — and looters and vandals picking apart the newly emptied units.

"That's when the proverbial heck broke loose in the park," Sykes told the council.

The council came to a unanimous consensus that Walden Pond LLC should be given the chance to tear down the condemned buildings and clean up the property before the city steps in, but all urged a tight time frame to get it done.

"It's absolutely appalling," council member Judy DeBella Thomas said of the park conditions. "It looks like a combination of a Beirut bombing and a tornado went through there."

The City Council ordered Lang to draw up a settlement agreement with Walden Pond for the cleanup. Council member Bob Langford also wanted the park to repay the city for its costs in recent months to address problems at Walden Pond.

Last month the city spent thousands of dollars cleaning up a massive trash pile that accumulated in the park after the owners removed the Dumpster. The park also owes a $25,000 water bill to the city. Sykes said the huge bill is due to repeated vandalism of the park's lift station. There was also a water main breach in the park, which city crews repaired, as well as other leaks that have not been located, city public works director Sherman Applegate told the council.

The fate remains unclear for the residents in a dozen or so mobile homes in the park. Sykes said some units are held by renters whom his clients will seek to evict; while some are privately owned, which may require a lengthier legal process to eject them from the property.

Beraquit told the Times he is unsure how many people are still legally living in his park and expressed regret over the conditions there. "We want to do the right thing and move forward," he said.

Walden Pond owners vow to raze units, clean up park 10/03/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 8:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa's bid for fifth Super Bowl means secret and expensive promises to NFL


    TAMPA — Before Tampa is officially named the host of the 2021 Super Bowl, local organizers have 90 days to convince NFL owners the city can meet certain conditions.

    What are they? That's top secret.

  2. Meet Batman's 8-year-old sidekick, whose super power is vanquishing a brain tumor

    Human Interest

    First, he vanquished a brain tumor.

    Now, Ty Verbanas is preparing to help Batman take on a collection of evil villains.

    Zachary Hurst and TJ McDonnell, playing Alfred the butler and Batman,  welcome 8-year-old Ty Verbanas to the Florida Batcave.
 To inspire Ty as he faced brain surgey, a Florida nonprofit that delpoys super heroes promnised to train the boy as the Caped Crusader's sidekick.
  3. Westshore Marina District project takes shape with another acquisition

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — One of Tampa Bay's prime waterfront areas took another major step toward redevelopment Friday as WCI Communities bought 2.35 acres in Westshore Marina District.

    WCI Communities, Lennar's high-end subsidiary,has paid $2.5 million for 2.35 acres in the Westshore Marina District for 35 townhomes. WCI is under contract  to buy an additional 9.5 acres.
[BTI Partners]
  4. Watch a man steal a lawn mower by driving it off the lot in Clearwater


    CLEARWATER — Police are looking for a man who drove a lawn mower straight off the Quality Motors lot on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard last week.

    Clearwater police are looking for a man who drove a lawn mower off the Quality Motors lot on May 18. (Clearwater police)
  5. Ex-daughter-in-law accused of $80,000 shopping spree with family Sam's Club account

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Plenty of people have in-law horror stories. But perhaps not as vexing as the one Thomas and June Simpson tell.

    Police said Mishay Simpson shot Andrew Noll in 2014 after he entered her Davis Islands home. An investigation found the two had been having an affair. Now she is accused in a civil lawsuit of charging $80,000 to her ex-husband's Sam's Club card, which was linked to his parents' bank account. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]