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Sale of Dublin Trailer Park Forcing Seniors' Relocation

In Dublin, the residents of one of the few remaining mobile home parks may eventually have to tell each other goodbye. The owners of the Ponderosa Mobile Home Park are selling the property. While residents own their trailers, they have no claim to the ground underneath. Once the city completes the zoning process, the 20-plus acres will likely become more upscale real estate that Dublin is known for. But it also means the loss of affordable housing options for seniors.

The Ponderosa by design is a close-knit community. The neat, mostly single-wide mobile homes are tightly packed together with only slivers of well kept lawns in between. Parked in driveways along streets named Cartwright, Virginia City, and Hoss is the occasional car sporting a "Save the Ponderosa bumper sticker. It's the name of a campaign founded last year by resident Correna Cox when she heard rumors that the park's owners might sell.

"They want to put in condos and retail office buildings and water parks. They want to Dublinize it! And the Ponderosa Park isn't part of being Dublinzed," says Cox.

Maybe not, but it's all but inevitable that a collection of 100 mobile homes on land valued at 100-thousand dollars an acre - would be cleared out to make way for more stone, brick and stucco houses like the ones going up just across the road.

In the Ballantrae community, where the street names and architecture reflect an old-world charm, the prices start at a quarter-million dollars - money that people in the Ponderosa could only dream about. Because their incomes are limited, Correna Cox says she's concerned about the future of many of the more than 100 elderly residents. One of them, James Woods, is 87 years old.

"I've been here 21 years. When I retired from White Castle, the wife and I decided to settle here and make this as our life-time home," Woods says.

But his wife passed away and Woods says he now has trouble caring for himself. Without help finding another affordable place to live Correna Cox says the elderly Ponderosans will lose their independence.

"They're going to be without a home. They're going to become, most of them, wards of the state," says Cox.

It's more complicated balancing the needs of residents with the rights of landowners according to Rod Pritchard of the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging.

"What do you do with these people then? What do you do with somebody if they are suddenly faced with this kind of a process where they're given proper notification and the facility shuts down. Where do those individuals go?"

Age might have played a part in the decision to sell the Ponderosa. One of the owners, John D'Amico, declined to comment for this report. But last August he told the Columbus Dispatch that at the age of 77, he was tired of managing the business. An attorney involved in the sale says residents may not have completely understood the time required for the land to change hands.

"These people were fearful that someone was going to immediately evict them and I think in the practicalities of the real world that wasn't going to happen."

Attorney Ben Hale represents the Edwards Land Company which signed a contract on the acreage about a year ago. He says the sale cannot proceed until the City of Dublin finishes zoning the property and completing a community plan. In the meantime, Hale has been an unofficial mediator between the buyer and residents.

"The Ponderosa should not be terminated without some exit strategy for these people and we're dealing with big enough pieces of real estate that it's sort of shame on us' if we don't see that these people are treated properly. And we've committed that we're going to do that."

The kind of relocation assistance has not been determined yet according to Hale. He says development of the Ponderosa property probably won't begin until 2008. Sam Hendren, WOSU News.