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Second deal to buy park falls through

Some residents are upset; their buyout deal hinged on a successful sale of the Seminole mobile home park.

Published July 16, 2006

SEMINOLE - For the second time, a deal to buy the Harbor Lights Mobile Home Park has fallen through at the last minute, taking with it a buyout deal some residents had agreed to just days before.

Crescent Resources LLC, a North Carolina land management and development company, had offered to buy both the park, 9191 Bay Pines Blvd., and the adjacent marina for $65-million. But the company withdrew its offer sometime last week as the deadline to close the deal neared.

The reasons are unclear. Allen Bobo, a Sarasota attorney who represents the park's owner, East Madeira Corp., declined to comment Saturday.

Mike Rizzo, head of the Harbor Lights Mobile Homeowners Association, said: "Nobody knows."

Rizzo added that the association's attorney, John Thomas of St. Petersburg, had been told only that it was an "internal problem" that had nothing to do with the $3-million buyout. It also had nothing to do with a threat by some disaffected homeowners to sue the homeowners association, East Madeira or the Travis family, which owns East Madeira, because they did not think the buyout was fair.

"It had nothing to do with us," Rizzo said. "I don't know anything else."

Rizzo announced the news Friday night in an e-mail to homeowners. Some residents are upset, he said. The residents' buyout deal hinged on a successful sale to Crescent.

Rodney Roberts is one resident who is upset over the news.

"People here are going totally nuts, they are so fed up with living like this," Roberts said. Many of the residents are succumbing to the stress and are physical wrecks, he said.

"We don't know what's going on down here," Roberts said. "We feel it's nothing but lies, lies, lies, lies."

Other residents are happy, said Rizzo. "I'm getting some people saying, 'Thank God, it's not so,' " he said. But Rizzo said he's cautioning them that the park still could be sold.

That's more than a possibility. Chris Travis and the family's attorneys said last month that John Loder, who backed out of a similar deal to buy the park and marina last year, is still interested. And the Travises have considered developing the property themselves.

In any case, they have said, the park will close.

Right now, it appears a sale is the most likely scenario.

"There is a backup buyer, and that backup buyer is being contacted as we speak," Bobo said.

Bobo held out hope for the mobile home owners, saying the Travises would like to do more for the homeowners than required under state law, which says mobile home owners who cannot move their homes will receive $1,375 for a single-wide and $2,750 for a double-wide. That's significantly less than many of the mostly elderly homeowners have invested in their homes.

And while many would not have recouped all their losses under the buyout deal, most would have done better than they would under the state's rules.

The Travises had suggested dividing the $3-million - more than four times the state requirement - so that longtime residents of the park would get the most - up to $15,500. Those who had bought into the park since 2004 would get much less - as little as $2,250 - because they had signed notices when they moved into Harbor Lights that it would likely not remain a mobile home park forever.

"We have communicated with the attorney for the homeowners and indicated that in any sale, we would want to work with them using this arrangement or something similar," Bobo said. "That's a good framework to use in a subsequent transaction."

Rizzo said he was told the homeowners should hear something by the end of the week.

[Last modified July 16, 2006, 01:27:45]

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