At a North Charleston mobile home park that was once home to hundreds, the dozens of residents who remain have been told to move out by May 1 as developers eye the site for a hotel, offices and stores.
Plans to sell the 105-acre site, not far from Boeing's main facilities and the Tanger Outlets mall, have been known for about a year, but the one-month notice to move, delivered on April 1, is still posing financial challenges and other hurdles for mobile home owners.
Just one year ago, Trailwood mobile home park had more than 400 tenants, most of whom owned their homes and rented the land beneath from Truluck Properties.
“It's gotten quieter and quieter,” said Melody Ferguson, a resident for 16 years who lives at Trailwood with her son and daughter.
Ferguson's 1986 mobile home now sits amid a row of empty concrete pads and electrical connection boxes where neighboring homes used to be.
Ferguson hopes the May 1 move-out date is flexible, because she doesn't want her daughter, who is in second grade, to have to change schools so close to the end of the school year.
She has made plans to buy a conventional house but hasn't closed on the purchase yet.
William Witting, who represents the property buyer Palmetto Land and Sea LLC, said residents have known the park was closing for a long time.
“We effectively gave people a year's notice, and that huge mobile home park is less than 10 percent occupied now,” he said. “Everyone has had lots of opportunity to make their plans.”
Witting said the buyer's plan is to complete the deal, then go to North Charleston government with a zoning request and plans for a development that could include a mix of hotel, retail and office space.
Charleston County has been working on a plan to move International Boulevard, and every version of that plan would connect that main thoroughfare, which leads to Boeing and the Tanger mall, to the Trailwood property.
“I think we have settled on the final alternatives and the engineers, as we speak, are putting the proper line on the paper,” said Assistant County Administrator Jim Armstrong, who oversees transportation projects.
Armstrong said the fate of the mobile home park site was not a factor in the county's planning.
Not so mobile
Rickey Brown has lived in a double-wide 1992 Fleetwood at Trailwood for about 15 years, and figures he's going to take a financial beating one way or another when he has to leave.
“For a double-wide like mine, it costs about $6,000 to $8,000 to move,” said Brown, who is 55 and owns a painting business. “I'm trying to sell mine, and then I could take that money and get set up in a rental.”
So far, Brown said the only offers he has gotten are from speculators who want to buy his home for a fraction of its value. They know he is what's called a motivated seller.
“The window is slowly closing,” he said. “If I don't get a buyer, I'll have to see what (the property owners) will do.”
Even as Brown spoke, a crew from Scott Heinrich's mobile home transport company was working on another double-wide mobile home up the street, preparing to divide it into two sections — the way it arrived — and mount it on axles to move it away.
“We've moved probably 30 percent of the homes out of here,” said Heinrich. “There are parks that have paid all or part of the moving costs, and others have offered some free rent.”
Due to the high costs of moving, mobile home park tenants tend to stay a long time, and that's given other parks an incentive to help people move in.
“This is definitely the largest (mobile home park) to close,” Heinrich said. “It's becoming a ghost town.”
Efforts to get comments from Truluck Properties were unsuccessful.
There was opposition
When news of the planned sale surfaced last year, hundreds of people attended a North Charleston zoning hearing to oppose a first request by Palmetto Land and Sea LLC to rezone the site.
The city did not approve the zoning change.
“We aren't going to rezone it until we know what they want to put there,” said Councilwoman Dot Williams, whose district includes the site.
Councilman Ed Astle said opponents last year got Witting's phone number, from the zoning application, and called him until he changed his number. Witting confirmed that account, and said he even received death threats from outside the U.S., after an opponent of the sale posted his phone number on a website.
Astle, whose district includes a small part of the mobile home park, along the main entrance road, said Truluck Properties has been helping some residents relocate.
“I think they have been fair,” he said.
Williams said she thinks remaining tenants should be given more time.
“I don't understand why they are rushing people out, when we haven't approved of anything being put there,” she said.
Williams said she, Astle and other council members have been able to help some residents find sites for relocation.
“One of them is right across the street from me, in a big blue trailer,” Williams said. “I've known this young man since he was a little boy. I grew up poor, and I know everybody needs a little help.”
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.
Aerial view of Boeing plant in North Charleston.( Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com/1/18/2013 )×
Most of the residents of Trailwood Mobile Home Park, in North Charleston, have moved their homes off the 105 acre property. (Brad Nettles/postandcourier.com)×
Workers with MH Services prepare a mobile home for moving at the Trailwood mobile home park, in North Charleston. The remaining residents have until May 1 to move their homes. (Brad Nettles/postandcourier.com)×
Rickey Brown talks about having to move out of Trailwood mobile home park in North Charleston. Residents have until May 1 to leave.×