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Wednesday, May 12, 2004


Mid-valley mobile home park closed

30 families told to move out by September

Express Staff Writer

Because of a shortcoming with a trailer park septic system, the residents of the J&C Mobil Home Park this week were given until Sept. 10 to move out and remove their trailers.

The park’s tenants received notices from Joe and Cherie Goitiandia, who own the park, on Sunday and Monday. The park is behind the Sun Valley Animal Center and Clear Creek Disposal offices on Highway 75, about half a mile south of McHanville.

"After an ongoing effort to pursue an on-site sewage permit from the South Central District Health department and Department of Environmental Quality, the park was unsuccessful," the written notice stated.

"Management and owners of J&C Mobile Home Park regret that circumstances beyond our control have forced this decision. However, the decision is final."

The park’s tenants will not be charged rent after May 1, according to the notice.

There are 31 families living in the trailer park. Many have children, and many have lived there for five to 12 years, said Jose Guercaechevarria, one of the park’s residents.

Jon Kellar got his notice, signed by Miguel Goitiandia, on Sunday, May 9. It was the day after the self-employed carpenter began helping his neighbor put a new roof on his trailer.

"It sucks," the 16-year park resident said. "I’ve been here since 1988. I love living here. It’s an ideal location."

Kellar said he’s not sure what he’s going to do. He proudly gave a tour of his yard, which was brimming with mature vegetation. He opened his wood shed, which was filled with pieces of lodgepole deadfall and sheets of lumber.

As he gave the speedy tour of his trailer, including a tidy workshop where he practices his craft, he offered to give things away, anticipating an imminent move outside Blaine County.

"I think the valley’s out-priced me, so my options are Maine or Minnesota," he said. "Ketchum’s all about affordable housing. Well, here’s affordable housing at its best."

Kellar said his trailer is paid off. He pays $285 per month to rent the land on which the mobile home is parked.

"Compare that to anywhere else," he said.

Alluding to the underlying reason for his predicament, Kellar said: "Basically, the state of Idaho has shut us down. I want to emphasize that Joe (Goitiandia) has done everything he can, and he shouldn’t get a bad rap out of this thing."

But South Central District Health sees it differently.

"We did not close him down," said Monie Smith, public information officer for South Central District Health, which works on a contract for the state.

Smith said the septic system at the site failed, and the park’s owners were given three options: expand the septic system, hook into a neighboring septic system, or close the park.

"We want to make it real clear that we did not shut him down. He made the decision to close the park on his own," Smith said.

The environmental specialists who monitored the J&C septic system were not available this week, Smith said. She was unable to answer questions about potential or existing contamination of the soil and water table in or near the park.

"We certainly realize that this is going to be really difficult for people who live in this mobile home park to find places to live that were as affordable as the park was," Smith said. "But we are interested in protecting the ground water for the people who live in that area."

Wendy Pabich, a biogeochemist who headed a Blaine County nitrogen study last year, said septic contamination can cause microbial, nitrogen and phosphorous contamination.

"Waste water is a problem, regardless, but it’s made worse by a septic system that’s not functioning properly," Pabich said.

But the issue is more than an environmental matter. It’s about affordable housing in a county where the inflation of rents and home prices continues to outpace local salaries.

"It’s a serious issue if those actually do end up getting shut down," said Michael David, interim housing director for the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority. "It’s a large percentage of the valley’s inventory of affordable housing. It’s just going to make our need for housing more important."

David said mobile homes typically cost between $20,000 and $50,000, plus the cost of the land rental.

What’s more, David said he is suspicious about the timing of the park’s closure. On Monday, May 3, the Blaine County Commission passed an affordable housing overlay zone that dictates "no-net-loss" of community housing units. David said he is 99 percent certain the J&C Mobile Home Park is within the borders of the new overlay.

"The cynical side of me says this is an easy way out for the landowner," he said.

As it stands, the trailer park property will be devoid of trailers by Sept. 10.

"Once again, the above mentioned decision is final," stated the notice signed by Miguel Goitiandia. "The Goitiandia family wishes all tenants well in the future."

Eric Workman, a cook at Desperado’s in Ketchum, said he received his notice on Monday.

"It puts everyone in a big old bind, really," he said.

Workman and his girlfriend may begin looking for a home in Hailey or Bellevue and start commuting farther to work. Beyond that, they’re not sure what to do.

"There’re a lot of trailers here. Look, these people just built their porches," he said, pointing to his neighbors’ trailers. "They’ve had this park here 35 years, and all of a sudden, it’s just: wham, bam. Something just doesn’t seem right."

Miguel and Joe Goitiandia did not respond to a request for an interview.


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