Westbury Park residents will try their hands at forming a co-op to make an offer on their mobile home park following notice of the owners’ intent to sell the property last month.
“When that happens, you feel up in the air like some corporation is going to buy you out,” said Mike Pelkey, the newly appointed president of the Westbury Park co-op board of directors. “There’s a lot of fear of losing your home.”
In a meeting on August 27, the residents submitted a petition with over 160 signatures – 35 more than required – to gain 120 days without the threat of sale to form a cooperative housing association and make an offer on the park, according to Sarah Martin, a cooperative development specialist for the Cooperative Development Institute.
Residents then had the opportunity to become members of the co-op; 100 of the 160 petition-signers did so for a $100 share per household. The new members then elected a board of directors who will work closely with the CDI to navigate through the due diligence period, potentially make an offer on the property and manage the park should the residents gain ownership.
Additionally, CDI looks to obtain a $10,000 grant from the Vermont Housing Conservation Board to help with pre-development efforts, Martin said.
The board of directors consists of eight positions, according to Pelkey. The UVM food service employee took the reins as president when no one else stepped up.
“I volunteered because I wanted to get the show on the road,” Pelkey said. His duties will include presiding over each of the co-op board’s meetings and managing communications with CDI among other tasks. While he has never held a role like this before, Pelkey said his wit, love of reading and training from CDI will help him lead the park through to its Jan. 4 offer deadline.
For the next 120 days the co-op will focus on hiring an engineer, an appraiser and other specialists to determine the value of the park then explore the cost of utilities and maintenance.
“It’s a research phase,” Martin said, adding it’s too early to say if residents will offer the $11.5 million asking price.
Should the co-op members succeed in purchasing Westbury Park, the board will serve as a democratic institution governing the management of the property, CDI’s Andy Danforth said.
Members would have the right to vote on the community rules, bylaws and rent, according to Martin. If there’s a surplus at the end of the year, they would vote on where to allocate the money either into a reserve or as a deduction of their rent.
Park residents who elect not to join the co-op could continue living in the park and would pay the same rent as members but would have no voting rights, Martin said. Non-members may join the co-op at any time.
The board of directors will meet next week to discuss future steps, and residents will meet within the next month, according to Martin.
“I’m pretty positive,” Pelkey said. “I think we’ll be in pretty good shape.”