Lake City residents back trailer park opposition

Assistant City Attorney Emilia Walker explains the city's position on Royal Oaks Mobile Home Park to residents during a public forum Wednesday.

Assistant City Attorney Emilia Walker explains the city's position on Royal Oaks Mobile Home Park to residents during a public forum Wednesday.

— Charlette Lening can remember a time when the Royal Oaks Mobile Home Park was a nice-looking place with nonassuming residents.

Lening has lived in a home behind the trailer park since the mid-1970s. She said she and her neighbors had no problems with park residents back then, but she said it has changed over the years to become “ratty” and a public nuisance.

“When we moved there in ‘76, it was a really nice, well-kept trailer park,” said Lening. “Retired teachers lived there. It was well-maintained and landscaped, but in the past years there’s been gun shots over there during the night. People stealing, not from our house, but next door. People went over there and tried to steal a lawnmower once. There’d be people walking through your yard. It’s just not been a good place.”

Nearly 40 Lake City residents crowded into city hall to hear from officials about an attempted revival of the trailer park during a public forum Wednesday. City code now forbids trailer parks and town leaders have repeatedly said they will not consent to a variance request from the park’s new owners, Stryant Investments LLC, who want to reopen the park.

It wraps around the corner of Jonesboro and Rex roads, and representatives of the company that now owns the property argued in a meeting within the last month that a trailer park was the best use of the property. They also argued that they could fix up the property and make it into a trailer park that sounds, at least on paper, like the place Lening remembers when she moved to the city.

But residents don’t want to give them that chance.

Residents concerns range from snakes and rodents they believe are coming from the trailer park onto their properties, to its effect on their property values. The park is mostly empty with only three of 53 trailers occupied.

“It degrades property values in the entire city and we just want don’t those people in Lake City,” said William E. Mitchell, who lives near the park on Rex Road.

Assistant City Attorney Emilia Walker said evicting the few tenants that live there would not be enough to address the issues at the trailer park.

“It’d still be a public nuisance, it’d still be in disrepair and in violation of city code,” Walker said. “The legal problem is a lot bigger than just having tenants there.”

Public Works Director Eddie Robinson said the city has begun issuing citations to the park’s owners for overgrown grass. He said there are other violations at the park, including trailers that are partially torn down or left open. The trailers, however, do not belong to the park owners, and were already on the property when they bought it from the FDIC.

The city is trying to track down the owners of the unoccupied trailers — which have been condemned — to get them to remove them from the property.

Mayor Willie Oswalt said the company is required to appear in Municipal Court July 25 at 9 a.m. for an arraignment hearing on the citations. He said the owners were told about the forum before it happened so they could have an opportunity to defend their plans. No one spoke up during the meeting and said they were with the ownership company.