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Buyouts underway at Evergreen Village

Action part of plan for flood-prone mobile park

Published: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 10:59 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 11:21 p.m. CDT
(Danielle Guerra – dguerra@shawmedia.com)
Evergreen Village resident Larry Hunter smokes in front of his mobile home Tuesday. Hunter plans on looking at a farmhouse in Arkansas in the next month to possibly purchase it with the money he will be getting for his mobile home.
(Danielle Guerra – dguerra@shawmedia.com)
Evergreen Village resident Miriam Ramirez and her two-year-old, Alondra, wait as Lee Courtney, with Land Acquisitions Inc., fills out paperwork during their one-on-one interview May 23 to discuss the price of her mobile home at the DeKalb County Administration Building in Sycamore. Ramirez, through a translator that the county supplied to help at these meetings, said she wasn't sure where her family would move and if they would move before or after November, when she is expecting her second child.
(Danielle Guerra – dguerra@shawmedia.com)
Robert Baird, an Evergreen Village resident for 29 years, plays with his bullmastiff Chewy on Tuesday after mowing the yard of his friend Larry Hunter. Baird said he and his family would stay at the Sycamore mobile home park until at least November.
(Danielle Guerra – dguerra@shawmedia.com)
Evergreen Village Mobile Home Park resident Larry Hunter pets his cat on the back porch of his mobile home, which sits on the east bank of the Kishwaukee River, on Tuesday in Sycamore. Hunter plans on looking at a farmhouse in Arkansas in the next month to possibly purchase it with the money he will be getting for his mobile home.

SYCAMORE – Larry Hunter is eager to leave Evergreen Village Mobile Home Park near Sycamore for a warmer climate in Arkansas.

Hunter moved to Evergreen Village, 955 E. State St., six days before a 2007 flood, which damaged the repainting and recarpeting he had just completed in his home. Since then, the county has offered him $14,940 for his 1977 mobile home, an offer he doesn't find completely fair.

"What gets me is they're not even coming in and looking at the house," Hunter said. "I keep mine nice and clean."

DeKalb County officials closed on the sale of the flood-prone property, which includes 33 acres of farmland and about 6 acres of railroad right-of-way nearby, on May 30. Property owner Frank Santoro agreed to sell Evergreen Village for $1.47 million on April 15, a day before a county-imposed deadline.

Since approving the sale of the purchase April 16, county officials have met with about 120 Evergreen Village residents within the past few weeks. During one-on-one interviews, residents were told what their mobile homes were worth based on figures from the Marshall & Swift residential cost handbook. They also were told how much money they would receive for moving expenses.

County leaders have secured $7.1 million in state and federal emergency management grants to buy the property and relocate residents. Under the grant terms, residents must be relocated and the property returned to open space by June 30, 2015. Along with the nearly $1.5 million purchase price for the property, county officials have budgeted about $3.7 million to relocate residents and about $1.9 million to purchase the mobile homes.

Officials began pursuing the grants after a 2007 flood damaged many mobile homes and forced the evacuation of the park. Since then, the park has flooded multiple times and was temporarily closed in 2008.

All residents have to be gone by April 30. Officials have let Evergreen Village residents know about comparable homes in Edgebrook, Cortland, West Chicago, Elgin and Sandwich, said Paul Miller, DeKalb County planning zoning and building director.

"As important as it is we get them out of a floodplain, they are being displaced," Miller said. "They are losing their homes. We're trying to make this as painless and smooth as we can for them."

Lee Courtney, vice president of Land Acquisitions Inc., a consulting firm working with the county, met with some Evergreen Village residents. He said they considered the number of residents in each unit when giving the full quotes.

The county will hire a moving company for residents moving within 50 miles of Evergreen Village, Courtney said. They also can elect to move themselves, in which case they would receive about $1,200 to cover expenses.

Residents are not required to accept the offers the county makes them in comparable housing and can put the money they receive for their homes toward other housing.

"We're very pleased with the reception of the trailer owners," Courtney said. "They pretty much all seem pretty happy with the benefits available to them."

On the other hand, Hunter said he doesn't think the process is fair because he said some neighbors are getting more money than they may deserve. Hunter pointed out he has central air conditioning in his home, while others don't.

Hunter lives near the east bank of the Kishwaukee River, which is close enough that he can fish from his back porch. His home was damaged by flooding in 2007 and 2008.

Hunter plans on traveling to Mountain Home, Arkansas, in two weeks to see a farmhouse on a 10-acre property his Evergreen Village neighbor found.

"My house is from 1977," Hunter said. "It would never hold up if I brought it with me."

Meanwhile, Kim Doty has spent about $10,000 renovating her 1969 mobile home, but she also plans to leave it behind when she moves to Genoa by the end of June.

Doty, a resident at the mobile park since 2001, received an offer of $12,600 for her home, plus moving fees.

"I guess that's fair," she said. "I've never been through this, either."

Doty plans to move to a second-story apartment in Genoa, where her parents are from. She has a medical condition that requires her to receive oxygen.

Doty has mixed feelings about leaving her home of 13 years. Part of her wants to stay just to see officials tear down some of the mobile homes.

"I'm not as sad as I was," she said. "It wasn't much, but it was ours."

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