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Mobile home owners may fight for $18,383 each

(ran West edition)

Homeowners at the Golden Lantern Mobile Home Park are threatening to sue a developer if they aren't paid for their homes as promised.

The Golden Lantern's homeowners association had settled with Triax, the development company that bought the park in late October. Each mobile homeowner was to receive $18,383.

But the developer rescinded that offer, saying it hinged on a rezoning change that would allow Triax to build condos, apartments and a small retail center on the 19.6 acres at 7950 Park Blvd. The county reversed the zoning change after discovering that it didn't advertise the public hearings properly.

The mistake meant Triax would have to go through the arduous process again, and it lost financing for the project. Triax has decided to close the park and let it remain vacant for a while.

In a statement, mobile home owners said it is unfair for Triax to get out of paying when, ultimately, they think Triax will seek and receive a land-use change.

"We, the members of the Golden Lantern MHP HOA, are not going to sit back and watch a greedy landowner/developer take our settlement and throw it away and give us $1,375 or $2,750 for our homes when we settled for $18,383 each in return for us agreeing to go forward and not fight for our homes anymore," according to an announcement from association members. "Someone has to stop these greedy developers. All we asked for was fair market value for our homes."

The statement added: "What they have done to us is WRONG in soooooooo many ways. This stinks. It smells so bad, it makes Red Tide smell like a high-dollar perfume."

The statement was signed by Laurie Cherry and Christy Short, two homeowners association leaders, and pledged to sue Triax official Kevin Voss.

Homeowners have been given until May 15 to leave the park. State law requires the developer to pay owners $3,000 for a single-wide and $6,000 for a double-wide if they can be moved. If the mobile home cannot be moved, owners of single-wides will receive $1,375 and owners of double-wides will get $2,750.

Ed Armstrong, the attorney for Triax, and Voss, a Triax officer, did not return several phone messages asking for comment.

But Tampa attorney Joe Magri, who represents the Golden Lantern owners, said the suit may not have to be filed if the issues can be settled amicably.

"There will be a lawsuit if these homeowners have their rights violated and that agreement is taken from them," Magri said. "Whether that will actually happen at this point is something beyond our control."

Magri said he is urging all parties to do the right thing and expects to know in the next couple of weeks if a lawsuit will be necessary.

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