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Mobile home group in Largo calling it quits

A local organization that has represented hundreds of mobile home owners since the mid-1970s has folded.

Don Hazelton, last president of the Largo Area Mobile Home Council, said the group, comprising representatives from most mobile home parks in the area, lacked leaders willing to guide it into the future.

"Some of the people had been in it for 12 to 15 years," said Hazelton, who lives at Whispering Pines. "They were getting older. Some had died. And no younger people were coming along to keep it going."

In the end, Hazelton said, he told the dozen or so remaining members that he was too involved with the Federation of Mobile Home Owners of Florida organization to maintain the local group.

"I asked them all if they would be willing to take over," Hazelton said. "They all said no."

So, longtime member Jean Halvorsen, a Largo commissioner, packed up the records, took them home and stored them.

"It's sad," said Halvorsen, who lives at Palm Hill Country Club mobile home park. Although the group, which was once politically active, had taken few stands in recent years, "it was still good to get everybody together," she said.

Hazelton and Halvorsen said the Largo Area Mobile Home Council got its start at a time when local governments were responsible for mobile home regulations. Since 1985, that responsibility has been in the hands of the state Legislature, thus eliminating the need for local watch-dog organizations.

Still, it is ironic that Largo, of all cities, should have trouble generating interest in an organization for mobile home dwellers.

According to Hazelton, Pinellas County has more mobile homes than any county in the state. Largo has about 40 parks with about 11,000 mobile homes, he said. According to city records, about one-third of Largo's 66,000 residents live in mobile homes.

Helen Priel, a Federation of Mobile Home Owners of Florida section director, said fewer retirees and more young people with children appear to be moving into mobile home parks.

"Rents are high, insurance has gone sky high," she said. "People say they can't afford to leave a house up north that is paid for to move here to a mobile home park."

And few new parks are opening, Halvorsen said. The last park chartered in Largo was Island in the Sun, section III, in 1988, she said.

The younger mobile home owners are busy with work, child-rearing and other activities, Priel said, and don't have time for homeowners groups. And these days, retirees too "are busy with their own activities, like shuffleboard and golf."

"There are so many shuffleboard tournaments, people can't make our meetings," Priel said.

Jim Mulhall, a former president of the local group, said the state and district organizations remain powerful and are competent to handle issues that once were relegated to local clubs.

"If something's happening in one park, (such as unreasonable rent increases), these days it's probably happening all over the area," Mulhall said.