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Same American story, this time in Wisconsin

Same American story, this time in Wisconsin October 2, 2012

Chris Rickert of the Wisconsin State Journal reports on the “unpleasant” history of the Hickory Lane Mobile Home park in Monona.

The five-acre site is set to become home to luxury apartments where residents will benefit from $2.15 million in city-funded improvements such as underground parking and boat slips on the Yahara River.

The story of what it used to be, Rickert says, is “worth remembering”:

Back in 2005, the mobile home park’s owners, Mansel and Dottie Johns, decided to get out of the mobile home park business and sell their property to developer Kevin Metcalfe, who had plans for 84 condos on the site.

A 2007 photo from the Wisconsin State Journal shows homes in the former Monona neighborhood. That neighborhood, those homes, and the families who lived in them, are all gone now.

Residents of the park — which had 42 lots and had been around more than 40 years — had a deadline for vacating the premises extended multiple times as Monona officials, the Johnses and Metcalfe worked on a deal for the $17.9 million project that included a request from Metcalfe for some $2.7 million in tax incremental financing.

Significantly, it also included Metcalfe paying up to $5,000 to each household to cover moving expenses.

But the deal fell through in early 2007 as residents were moving out, according to Monona city administrator Pat Marsh, and they ended up getting bubkes.

News coverage of the park’s final exodus was predictably depressing: Hickory Lane residents without the means to rent apartments were faced with living in their cars, at a campground or in a homeless shelter.

The Wisconsin Manufactured Home Owners Association is tracking legislation Rickert says would “provide residents with more notification of park closings and give them a way to buy their parks when they’re slated for closing.” The bill could make a big difference for the 4 percent of Wisconsin households living in such homes, but it wouldn’t matter much at all to the other 96 percent, so it’s probably not going anywhere.

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