WEST STOCKBRIDGE -- Town officials have offered a compromise plan that could settle a rent dispute between the residents and landlord of the town's lone mobile home park.
The Board of Selectmen, acting as the newly formed Rent Control Board, this week proposed bylaws allowing the town to regulate rent at the Mill Pond Mobile Home Park on Route 41. The state Legislature and Gov. Deval L. Patrick approved the town's request to establish the rent control authority last summer.
Next month, a special town meeting will vote on the regulations that would establish a monthly $325 fee -- or base rent -- for homeowners to lease the 35 lots at the park. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 13 at Town Hall.
"We rolled back to what the level was when the town petitioned the Legislature for the Rent Control Board," said Town Administrator Mark Webber. "You could say it was a compromise."
Park residents had wanted the rent based on figures as of March 2011, the month Bay Plum bought the park from the Gennari family. Under the new management, led by Eric Levesque, Mill Pond residents have seen a 40 percent spike in monthly rents from $260 to $365.
The landlord wanted to maintain the current rent saying the additional income will continue to pay for major upgrades to the park, such as water, septic systems, gravel roads and rehabilitation.
Both sides are somewhat receptive to the board's proposal.
"It's a starting point," Levesque said.
"For us, it was about establishing rent control," noted Nancy Hale, president of the Mill Pond Tenants Association. "We would have preferred a lower rent, but [we're] satisfied to move the process forward."
If approved by town voters and upheld by the state Attorney General, the bylaws would allow the tenants and landlord to petition the Rent Control Board to raise or lower the base rent figure. Webber noted the proposed regulations automatically call for an annual review of the monthly rent every January.
According to the pending regulations, the Rent Control Board also can get involved in eviction cases, something that concerns the landlord.
Levesque said the state procedure for trying to remove a tenant in arrears already is several months without adding a layer of local review to the process.
"It's already an onerous process to recover lost revenue that's a burden to the operator and gets passed along to tenants in higher rent," he said.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
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