Mayor: North Liberty mobile home buyer wants to 'lift the level of living in that area'

NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa (KCRG) - The mayor of North Liberty said he has a "bitter taste" in his mouth after meeting with a company that recently purchased a mobile home park in the city.

David Schakel watches as a crew takes a part his mobile home. Schakel is moving out of Golfview Mobile Home Court after announced rent increases. (Aaron Scheinblum/KCRG)

This comes after Havenpark, a group that defines itself as "creating stable, long-term income through a disciplined approach of acquiring and operating outstanding manufactured home communities," purchased Golfview Mobile Home Court in North Liberty.

Mayor Terry Donahue said he struggled to understand is what took Havenpark so long to meet with the residents about their plan. He said after meeting with representatives from Havenpark, he believes the plan they have in place is to "lift the level of living in the area."

"[They said] that they wanted to go ahead and try to lift the level of living in that area- which can be interpreted a lot of different ways," Mayor Donahue said. "The people over there are panicking already like: 'are they going to force us to move out?' 'Are they going to force us to make repairs that we can't afford?' It's just left a bitter taste in the mouth."

This comes after residents say they received a letter their rents would be going up significantly, and some believe the company is targeting people with lower incomes.

The rent increase has forced a number of people to move out of Golfview, including some long-time residents.

"It's a little nerve wracking to watch your home be uprooted from where it's been for so long," said David Schakel, who has lived in the mobile home community for ten years.

Last week, TV9 spoke with Schakel as he moved out with the help of Habitat for Humanity. Wednesday, he sat and watched as his home was taken apart.

"I bought my trailer thinking I'd never move again," Schakel said. "And then they come in, and the demolish my dream and everything else."

Mayor Donahue said the handling of the situation at Golfview has left him feeling "embarrassed."

"Basically, there's nothing we can do- as long as they follow the state code, our hands are tied," Mayor Donahue said.

During the conversation between city leaders and Havenpark representatives, Mayor Donahue said they wanted to make sure the new buyers spoke with their residents before they made quick and drastic raises in rent.

"One thing that we wanted to accomplish with those folk was: [they] need to talk with the residents."

Schakel said that conversation still has not happened. And outside of moving his home, he has been forced to make other drastic changes.

"I've lost my car, I became basically not dependable on myself, I have to ask somebody else to run me around or ask them to take me to the doctor," Schakel said.

Even Mayor Donahue admits there is little he can do to provide reassurance to the residents.

"I don't believe I can provide a peace of mind, except you have our emotional and community support," Mayor Donahue said.

But to his own admission, community support can only go so far, and the community wants face-to-face answers.

"Don't alienate the people that you have there, because they be just as much your strongest allies as your enemies," Mayor Donahue said.

Residents of Golfview said they received a letter that invited them to a "town hall" event Thursday evening.

TV9 obtained a copy of the letter that says the meeting will be held on Thursday, May 23 from 5:30 p.m.- 6:30 p.m. at South Slope Community Center at 980 N. Front St. in North Liberty.

The letter specifically states the town hall "is a private event and is only open to residents of Golf View. Media, attorneys, and any others who are not residents are not invited to the Townhall (sic)."

The letter asks residents to register online that wish to attend, and the deadline was May 21. "Those who have not registered will not be able to attend," the letter reads.