Bulldozing Clear Creek Mobile Home Park
While Bristol, Virginia goes to court to annex some shopping mall property, nobody seems to have noticed the residents of Clear Creek Mobile Home Park. Trammell Properties bought the park to use as an access road.
After Trammell dumped Bristol that spent a fortune to annex his property at his request, he cuts some deal with Washington County (who spent another fortune to keep him) and is receiving some strange sales tax kick-back deal to pay for this road at taxpayer expense.
That doesn't include who knows how many more "incentives" Trammell Properties is getting. But while Trammell gets millions, the residents of Clear Creek Moble Park get ignored.
"There's no way in hell they can afford to move out of here," says 17-year park resident Ronnie Counts. He along with about 50 other mainly poor families have been uprooted in this speculative land deal that will cost millions in corporate welfare and has already cost local taxpayers a fortune in legal fees.
This 80 ft. long home will cost $3000 to move.
As of June 11 less then 20 families remain out of 50. According to one resident, they were promised compensation from the former park owner whom they claimed managed to get out of it. Quoting one resident, "they were renting lots until the day the notices came,one family had been here only six months!"
He explained how he and his family would let their trailer go back. "I have a 2000 model but nobody will let me park it because it's 80 feet long. After all of these costs, an apartment will be cheaper."
He went on to explain how they even tried to come around and collect the rent again. ($195) There are further claims the former owners went out of their way to convince the tenants they weren't going to sell.
"They want every last penny down to the last minute," said one resident. Those that wouldn't pay after the eviction notice have lost their deposits as well from Trammell Properties.
I talked to Mr. Terry Lee the former owner. His account disputes some of these claims and some of the press reports. He is willing to allow residents to relocate to his other trailer parks and some already have. The catch is they have to pay to move them and be in good standing on lot rent, etc. I accept his word on this.
Trammell attorney Jim Bowie said park tenants were given the legally required 120 days' notice and will have to be out by July 20. He claims to feel sorry for their "inconvenience" but they have to go or Trammel Properties will strip and bulldoze their homes anyway. Some have already been stripped or abandoned. Others are for sale at any price. Mr. Trammell refuses to talk to anyone on this issue.
Many park residents were already living on the edge. Like much the of dirt-poor Bristol working class they earn poverty wage scales at Interstate 81's Exit 7' restaurants, hotels, and shopping centers. One man I talked to worked at nearby eatery.
He was trying to get his trailer out and hopes a buddy can get his truck fixed so they can pull it. But he also faces the problem of owners refusing older trailers. One can work a low wage Bristol job, but one can't live here.
As of April, Bristol has the highest unemployment rate in Southwest, Virginia.
Of greatest concern to me is five families that are in real trouble. All are headed by disabled adults and three involve minor children. One tearful resident showed me the local newspaper where she had been calling to find someone to accept her trailer. I checked the numbers myself and she was right.
She has to deal with cancer, loss of child support when her ex-husband was killed in Iraq in November 2003, and now eviction from her home she owes less then $1000 on. Another single mother was badly injured in an auto accident last year, while one disabled senior in a wheelchair takes care of her disabled granddaughter. Most can't even afford to file bankruptcy.
I've spoken to Washington County Social Services and I'm in the process of checking with People Inc. They will try to help, but this is beyond their limited resources. Contacts with Washington County supervisors have so far been a waste of time.
These people need whatever help they can get. Many of the those evicted from Clear Creek are the bulwark of the Bristol economy and its cheap labor service industry. Yet Bristol and Washington County, Virginia divert millions in economic development grants into shopping malls and corporate welfare, but neither will contribute one cent to help these people or even address the problem.
They want sales tax revenue and don't profit from better jobs. As Bristol mayor Jerry Wolf explained to me, "we can use the tax receipts to remodel the old train station and pay for a new library." When I asked what all of this was doing to address the chronic poverty, under employment, and unemployment in the community, he answered, "nothing."
Local government here is in business for themselves and their cronies. They just don't give a damn for people like these in Clear Creek Mobile Home Park. They can't be counted on to do anything, so it's up to us.
This has to be the worse case of depraved indifference I have ever seen, even for Bristol.
- Clear Creek Mobile Home Park Travesty
- The End of Clear Creek Trailer Park with picture gallery September 2004
- Bulldozing Clear Creek Mobile Home Park
- Local activist working to help displaced trailer park residents