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Murray Journal

Murray Seniors Fight to Keep Homes

Aug 03, 2016 08:42AM ● By Bryan Scott

Condos and construction at the south end of Winchester Park Estates RIGHT: Mary Johnson, a Winchester Estates resident. –Tyler Warren

By Tyler Warren

Murray, Utah - Local residents flooded the Murray City Council Chambers on July 5 to protest the decision of the Winchester Park Estate’s owners to put the property on the market. Homeowners in the 55 and older mobile home park said they had recently received letters informing them of the decision to sell the property.

Residents lease the land at $300-400 a month, but own the mobile homes they live in. Some spent their retirement savings on their homes and have made extensive improvements, some up to $70,000. For many seniors living at the park, leaving would mean abandoning their investment.

“I’ve been declared legally blind.  It would be impossible to move my trailer or set up somewhere else,” said Ernest Bennet, who has been living on the property for 14 years.

A double-wide trailer in good condition can cost $16,000 to disassemble and move. Homes built before 1976 can’t legally move without special permissions. Then there is the matter of where the homes would be relocated.

The only other 55 and older mobile home park in Murray is Cottonwood Cove, which has about 20 spots available. There are more than 200 homes in Winchester Estates.

Not everyone thinks the letters are cause for alarm. Evelyn Jones manages the park with her husband and has been living there for 10 years.

She describes the owner as a good man, who kept rents low and appreciated the residents. Health conditions forced him to pass the park on to his children. “He has the right to sell it,” Jones said. The current owner did not respond to a request for comment.

For the Joneses, the closing of the park just means an early retirement. But Evelyn understands why some residents are concerned. “Any change is hard for anybody, change is scary.”

Residents of Winchester Estates have seen a lot of change recently, much of it visible from their backyards. There is a new driving range on 7200 South and rows of condos on a dusty construction site.

If the land were sold, it would need to be rezoned before new construction could take place.

In this early stage, it’s hard to tell how realistic it might be for a developer to scoop up this land and rezone it, but residents aren’t waiting around to see.  

On July 6, residents held their own meeting in the home of Sheri Chandler. The meeting was attended by Bruce Cutler from the Utah House of Representatives.

“We had 76 people come, which was absolutely fantastic,” Chandler said.

“Our plan is to form a Home Owners Association, find funding, and form a co-op…We’re hoping…to get the word out to any potential buyers that the zoning is RMH [Residential Manufactured Homes] and will stay RMH.”

Local non-profits have been a key resource in getting the effort organized.  Connie Hill, from the Utah Coalition of Manufactured Homeowners, distributed materials to help Winchester Estates residents organize, inform them of their rights, and ensure that the law is being followed. Another group, Utah Resident Owned Communities, is working with residents of Winchester Estates to form a co-op.

They have found support in local government as well. Councilman Dave Nicponski, whose district includes Winchester Estates, made his position public during the July 5 city council meeting.

“You’ve taken a lot of time to come up here this evening and I think it’s only fair to let you know that you have an advocate in me, and I will do everything in my power to support your position,” the councilman said.

Mary Johnson, 85, was one of the Winchester Estates residents to speak at the council meeting.

“I bought my home…three years ago. I bought it thinking it was my end-of- life home,” she said and later expressed confidence that residents voices had been heard.

“I think everybody is going to throw such a fit they’ll end up letting us stay.”