Inquirer: Trailer park says mayor's letter was 'slap in the face'

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 9, 2014 

JOE PAULL/jpaull@ledger-enquirer.comThe owners of Victory Mobile Home Park say their property was portrayed inaccurately in a letter from the mayor.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a news story about Mayor Teresa Tomlinson sending a warning letter to the owners of the Victory Mobile Home Park on Cusseta Road, warning them that if they didn't clean up their act, the city would shut them down.

The letter cites "pervasive criminal activity, including persistent violence and drug-related activity."

I tried to get in touch with the owners when I wrote the story but couldn't. Until last week, when one of them called me. Richard Redding, who owns the 2.5-acre mobile home park near the intersection of Cusseta and North Lumpkin roads with his father, wasn't pleased with the way his property was portrayed.

"Apparently this is the major crime source for South Columbus, at least according to Mayor Tomlinson," Redding said. "I feel like all this could have been handled a little more low-key."

Redding said a team of city building inspectors came to the property a few weeks before the city's letter arrived. They wrote up numerous citations and condemned several trailers.

What upset Redding most was the fact that the city sent police officers with the inspectors for their protection.

"It was like they were in a war zone. They said, 'We have to ensure the safety of our employees,'" Redding said. "I think somebody's been watching too many movies. I felt like that was a slap in the face of the people who live there."

Redding said even before the letter arrived, he and his father were looking into selling the property, but a Realtor said it would probably be more valuable as an empty lot than as a trailer park.

He said he has considered contacting NeighborWorks or Habitat for Humanity but hasn't yet looked into that. For now, he feels like he's trapped.

"There's no way a whole team of maintenance men could go in there and repair everything by the deadlines," he said.

I asked Redding if he had taken the city up on its offer to work with him to bring his property up to code, but he said he hasn't bothered to try that.

I called Tomlinson Friday afternoon and told her about the conversation with Redding. She said it was "encouraging" that he reached out to someone, even if it was me.

Tomlinson said it is not her intention or desire to shut the mobile home park down, but to clean up a situation that is detrimental to the area. She did the same thing with a small apartment complex on Decatur Court a couple of years ago.

"We'd like to find a way to get the place cleaned up so it's up to code," Tomlinson said. "We need low-income housing, but it has to be inhabitable and safe. Those are the two standards that we will not fall below."

Tomlinson suggested that Redding contact Inspections and Code Director Greg Coates, who apparently has dealt with him in the past, and set up a meeting in which some solution could be hammered out.

"We have worked with other property owners. Those over at Decatur Court, we didn't take their property. We worked with them and worked some things out and haven't had a lot of problems over there since," Tomlinson said. "We do try to help them out."

She said often property owners faced with a situation like this feel overwhelmed and don't know where to start to get out of it. "That's where we're experts," Tomlinson said. "We do know what to do."

So, I will get back in touch with Redding and see if he's up for calling Coates and seeing if the place can be salvaged.

Stay tuned.

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