No kids, even if dad is at war

An adults-only mobile home park says a resident can't let his grandchildren stay with him temporarily.

Published February 18, 2006

CLEARWATER - A flag at the Riviera Estates mobile home park proclaims, "We Support Our Troops."

Park resident Thomas Boyette isn't so sure.

Boyette took in two grandchildren when his son was sent to Iraq. Now, the adults-only park says they can't stay.

Rules are rules, the managers say. Boyette will be evicted if the children stay.

"What am I supposed to do?" said Boyette, who lives in the 171-unit park on U.S. 19 north of Countryside. "Put my family out?"

But making an allowance for Boyette's grandchildren would go against the very reason the neighborhood was created, said Sharon Stewart, regional manager for Arc Investments, the California management company that oversees the community.

"People move to Riviera Estates for peace and quiet," Stewart said. "And no kids."

Boyette and his wife, Deborah, moved to the park five years ago from up north for those very reasons.

But all that changed in September when their son Sean was called up for active duty. The 32-year-old Army National Guardsman was sent to Iraq.

Not knowing he would be deployed, Sean and his wife, Trisha, put their Citrus Park home up for sale months earlier. The same month that Sean was deployed, they found a buyer. But their new home, also in Citrus Park, wouldn't be ready until March.

Trisha and the kids, 3 and 12, needed a place to live in the meantime. When they looked into renting an apartment, most required at least a six-month lease. On top of that, Trisha and Sean were trying to save money for the down payment on their new home.

So the elder Boyette opened his mobile home to the family.

"I knew I'd have a problem" said Boyette, 53, a retired computer consultant. (At least 20 percent of Riviera Estates residents can be under 55 if they are at least 40.) "But I thought it's better to be upfront than sneak and get busted."

So Boyette wrote a letter to management asking if the family could stay. In November, Mike Keech, the park's previous manager, wrote Boyette a letter giving him permission for the family to stay as long as they didn't use the pool or disrupt the community, he said.

Trisha Boyette and the kids moved into the three-bedroom home in January.

That's when the complaints started, management says.

There's a child living here.

There's an underage resident.

They've been here longer than 30 days.

"The rules are the rules," Stewart said. "And we have a responsibility to the other residents in the community to enforce those rules."

Boyette said the children are in school during the day and rarely play outside - a tough feat for Daniel, an exuberant 3-year-old.

Guests are allowed to stay at Riviera Estates for 30 days. Exceptions can be made to those rules if written permission is given.

But now the Boyettes' time is up, Stewart said.

On Thursday, a park maintenance man delivered a letter to Boyette's front door. It said he had seven days to come into compliance with the park's rules or face eviction proceedings.

"We have made special exceptions based on the circumstances," Stewart said. "I don't know why he thinks the rules should not be enforced to everyone equally."

Neighbors sympathize with Boyette, but say they're powerless.

"I went to the office for the man and spoke to our lawyer, but this is between him and the park," said Ed Cowan, 71, president of the Riviera Estates homeowners association. "I feel sorry for the guy because I spent 41/2 years in the Army, but I can't help him."

On Friday at the mobile home park, the clanking of a shuffleboard game mixed with the clacking of a rope against a flagpole hoisting the American flag high above the front office.

Just below the American flag was another flag that read, "We Support Our Troops." "Not hardly," Boyette said, sitting on a sectional in the cool of his dark living room on Friday afternoon.

"They're not leaving until their house is ready," he said. "I'm not kicking them out at a time like this."

He remembers being a soldier too well to do that, he said.

It was 1973 and after three years in Vietnam, all Boyette wanted was to get back to the "real world."

His greeting was rotten vegetables thrown at him by protesters as he walked off the plane at San Francisco International Airport.

The world didn't want him.

With all the yellow ribbon stickers on cars and American flags in front of homes, he was happy to see the world had changed this time around, he said. Until Thursday.

"We have to be flexible in our ways; we have to be able to bend at a time like this," said Boyette, who wears an aluminum bracelet with his son's name engraved on it. "If we don't bend with the wind, we break."

Nicole Johnson can be reached at njohnson@sptimes.com or 727 445-4162.