PITTSFIELD — The owners of the Allendale Pines mobile home park off Cheshire Road are seeking a $70 per month lot rent increase and are simultaneously planning to sell the park to an investment group from the Springfield area.
The city's Mobile Home Rent Control Board opened a hearing Monday on the proposed rent increase, which was submitted by current owners Morgan Management. About two dozen residents opposing the change attended the session.
The increase is the first requested in several years and is necessary to allow the proposed new owners to upgrade the park roads and make other improvements, according to attorney Robert Kraus of Kraus & Hummel of Plymouth, representing Morgan Management.
The amount of the hike per year is not unreasonable, Kraus said, adding that the owners chose not to return to the board each year with a request because of the time-consuming process involved and the expense of seeking an annual increase.
The rent on the park's 56 lots is now $190 per month and would increase to $260 if the hike is approved by the board. Kraus said Morgan Management hopes to sell the park to a group represented Monday by James Baldyga, of Agawam, but the deal is contingent upon approval of a rent increase, Kraus said.
Morgan Management, which has holdings in several states, is in the process of shifting away from manufactured home facilities to apartment complexes, the attorney said.
Ronald Bove, of the park's tenant association, spoke in opposition to the proposed rent hike and said residents were not given enough notice of the board meeting. He said the park roads are in poor condition, with potholes and other defects, and some homes were in dilapidated condition, causing health and safety concerns.
A woman in the audience said that improvements to the roads were promised at the time of the most recent rent increase but no permanent upgrades were done.
Ward 1 Councilor Lisa Tully, who could not attend, stated in a letter to the board, "I share the residents' frustration," adding that she has receive a number of complaints about the condition of roads and blight conditions.
A drive around the park on Tuesday found rough sections, potholes and ruts or uneven or absent pavement throughout the road system.
Residents also complained of low water pressure to the park, which Kraus said is something that should be addressed to the city water department and isn't controlled by the park owners.
He also said the Health Department and city inspectors are the parties who would have to act in the case of dilapidated homes or similar complaints.
Nearly all of the park homes appeared to be older mobile homes, but almost all seemed Tuesday to be well maintained.
Board members Kenneth Ferris and Justine Dodds, the city's housing specialist, questioned some of the financial figures submitted by Morgan Management in support of its application for an increase and asked for more detail.
"It just seems like a lot of money," Ferris said of the proposed rent increase. "Why so much?"
Considering that interest rates charged to mobile home park owners for improvement projects are typically higher than for loans for other investments, the difficult process involved in raising rents and other financial factors involved in managing a park, the increase requested is a reasonable one, Kraus said.
Board Chairman and City Councilor Christopher Connell proposed continuing the hearing until April 25, pending availability of council chambers at City Hall. Connell said Tuesday that the meeting has been scheduled on that date, and he has requested that the city Health Department conduct a required annual inspection of the park prior to the next rent board session.
Connell added that he is looking into a $6 "tax" the residents had said they were also paying each month, which was supposed to go to the city. He said Tuesday morning that he had not been able to track down such a tax provision, adding, "It makes me wonder if the residents have been overcharged all this time."
Connell said the board has some leverage in linking any rent increase to improvements at the four-acre park, which is located off Cheshire Road (Route 8), just south of the intersection of the Berkshire Mall Route 7 connector road intersection.
He said the company could be required to obtain three bids for proposed road or other improvements as part of an agreement allowing a rent hike.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.