WEST STOCKBRIDGE -- The newly created Rent Control Board has delayed a decision that could settle a rent dispute between the residents and landlord of the town's lone mobile home park.
PHOTO GALLERY | New ownership upsets trailer park tenants in West Stockbridge
The Board of Selectmen, acting as the rent control authority, has postponed a vote on proposed bylaws allowing the town to regulate rent at the Mill Pond Mobile Home Park on Route 41.
A yet-to-be scheduled special town meeting has final approval, according to Town Administrator Mark Webber.
The board and town attorney say they need more time to review the draft document and legal issues surrounding the tenants' claim the park owner has overcharged them since purchasing the 35-unit housing complex nearly 21 2 ago.
On Monday, the board agreed to further discussion -- and possible vote -- on the proposed bylaws, at a Dec. 2. meeting. The continuance followed a 70-minute debate over the Rent Control Board's starting point to establishing its initial maximum rent Bay Plum, LLC can charge under the bylaws.
Bay Plum contends the maximum rent allowed should be based on when the Rent Control Board was created through a special act of the state Legislature, Aug. 2, 2013.
"The date of adoption is a fair method of establishing the maximum rent," said Plymouth attorney Rob Kraus, representing Bay Plum. "We need to stop the emotion and heartfelt sentiment surrounding this issue."
However, park residents want rent consideration based on figures as of March 2011, the month Bay Plum bought the park from the Gennari family. Under the new management, led Eric Levesque, Mill Pond residents have seen a 40 percent spike in monthly rents from $260 to the current $365.
Levesque has said the added rental income was to pay for major upgrades in water and septic systems, repair of gravel roads, rehabilitation of "derelict homes" and other improvements at the mobile home park.
While the nearly 100 park residents, mostly retired couples and individuals on fixed incomes, realize the need for rent hikes, they believe the additional $105 is out of line.
"Levesque runs a decent business," said Anthony Lawson. "It's the manner in which the rent hikes were done -- three increases in three years -- is upsetting to us."
Tenant Leigh Harvey added, "We understand he needs to make a living -- we don't want him making a killing."
Selectman Peter Skorput, a member of the Rent Control Board, said the three-person panel aims to set a maximum rent fair to both the owner, as well as the tenants.
"I know you're working-class people just like me," he said. "But on the flip side, [Levesque] is a businessman who needs to make money."
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233