A co-owner of Walden Pond Mobile Home Park Tuesday urged New Port Richey city leaders to give the owners another chance to raze condemned trailers at the troubled property using their own contractor, rather than letting the city’s contractor handle the demolition.
New Port Richey city council members elected instead to plow forward with the city’s effort to raze the trailers on the taxpayer dime.
Walden Pond Mobile Home Park has been a problem for the city for a while. Earlier this summer, the mobile home park's owners ordered residents to leave, but failed to follow legal guidelines for eviction. Since then, some residents have vacated the park; others have remained behind. The dumpsters that served the park's residents were removed.
Stripping of trailers became an issue. Some vacant trailers collapsed.
Early in October, leaders passed an emergency resolution condemning more than 50 vacant trailers at the park.
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone everyday with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
City leaders at that time opted to give the park owners a chance to clean up the mess, with the expectation that Walden Pond Pond, LLC, would sign a settlement agreement with the city and complete some measures to improve conditions at the park. By the middle of the month, Walden Pond had not signed a settlement agreement or met other expectations.
So an exasperated city council on Oct. 16 gave the go ahead to just have a contractor, Signature Construction, raze the trailers at the city’s expense, which has been estimated to be $62,600. The city has money in reserves to fund the demolition. Officials intend to recoup the cost and could pursue a lien on the property.
On Tuesday, Paul Beraquit, managing partner of Walden Pond, LLC, which owns the park, told city council members the owners have been attempting to take steps to take care of problems at the property. He said the company completed an asbestos survey and then applied for a permit for demolition on Oct. 24. The permit was denied.
Beraquit said Walden Pond has installed new dumpsters at the park. He’s had security there. The company has paid residents to move out.
He said Walden Pond is “ready to move forward” with demolition of trailers.
“You’re stopping us from moving forward,” he said. “And you’re spending money. Emergency funds. Why? We’re here. We didn’t walk away.”
The city has also completed an asbestos survey, said Public Works Director Sherman Applegate. Two trailers require special handling and an extra cost above the $62,600. The city contractor is ready to start taking down trailers this coming Tuesday, he told Patch.
The city has already erected fencing at the park, and Applegate suggested paying to place monitoring at the property to measure air quality. City Council members approved the extra expenses.
Councilman Bob Langford pointed out that Walden Pond “may be out there doing stuff now,” but they didn’t sign the settlement agreement last month as they were expected to.
“Whatever you’re doing out there, you’re helping yourself to a great degree, because it’s cutting the expenses that you’re going to have to pay the city in the long run,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe pointed out that the time for Walden Pond, LLC, “to deal with this was a month or more ago. When that didn’t happen, we made the steps we did, and I think this is just the next part of the process.”
Beraquit said he’s going to be consulting with the company attorney about his next step.
Beraquit said after the meeting that if city leaders "really cared about the people," they should have let the property owner demolish the trailers.
“Now they want to be a hero using public funds,” Beraquit said.
Keep track of what's happening at Walden Pond with this record of continuing coverage:
City to Clean Up Walden Pond
Walden Pond Owners Given Chance to Clean Up Property
City Could Raze Crumbling Trailers at Walden Pond
Collapsing Trailers Raise Safety Concerns at Walden Pond
Dumpster Removal at Walden Pond Raises Concerns
Pasco Seeks to Connect Walden Pond Tenants with Aid
Residents Continue to Occupy Walden Pond After Closing Deadline
Tenants Oppose Removal from Walden Pond
FEMA Canvasses Walden Pond
Tenants Upset About Walden Pond's Closing
Mobile Home Park Closing Leaves Residents in a Bind