Photo: Lewis Loflin
Clear Creek Mobile Home Park Travesty
Bristol Virginia and Washington County by some accounts have wasted $2 million in legal wrangling over annexation around Exit 7. In one case a trailer court got in the way. 50 mostly poor families got evicted for a strip mall that will cost citizens $10 million.
Many ended up in public housing. The women pictured above I managed to get moved with an out of town donation while Washington County did little. As of the end of July 2005, no work has even started. These people could have had over two years to move, not 90 days.
Washington County, Virginia government withheld warning these people what was coming, then claimed they had no funds to help them relocate. They acted as an active partner in the deal, and gave the developer $10 million in corporate welfare and other subsidies.
This ranks as on of the worse examples of criminal indifference I've ever seen. In this case the County went out and borrowed $3 million and just handed it the developer! Note that all of this was conducted in secret "closed sessions" where they don't keep minutes or allow public oversight. Yes it's legal.
Update April 2006: The project has been dumped and moved to another location. The whole area is a garbage dump. Special thanks to the Bristol Herald Courier for their reporting of this travesty.
A change of scenery at Exit 7 June 05, 2006, BRISTOL HERALD COURIER (extract)
Property owner Mack Trammell recently cleared away the remnants of the former Clear Creek Mobile Home Park, and a fence now surrounds the property. The site, located just outside the city limits near Interstate 81's Exit 7, had been a graveyard of rusting trailer skeletons and discarded appliances for almost two years.
It had also become a public dump site, collecting old tires, discarded appliances, beer cans and broken glass. The work was completed last month, after Washington County ordered the hillside site cleaned up, said Stephen Richardson, the county's manager of recycling and special programs. "It was a solid waste violation. We sent a notice to Mr. Trammell to remove the old mobile homes, tires and other debris."
As the picture above shows, Clear Creek Trailer Park is an empty ruin and still undeveloped as of May 2005. 50 mostly poor residents were given about 90 days to relocate their mobile homes, at an average cost of $2000. Even if they had the funds, most other trailer parks were either full or refused to take older homes. There's a severe shortage of both affordable housing and trailer park space as local officals work to close them down and bring in high class retirees.
While Washington County Virginia committed as much as $50 million in subsidies to the developers, they refused to help these people. Worst, this deal was conducted in secret by the County and they knew a year before this was coming, but refused to inform the residents. Local politicians just didn't give a damn what happens to common people. As a volunteer that tried to help them, in some cases my job was made worse by the residents themselves. Most walked away and gave up, others had their homes destroyed by vandals.
Below are local letters printed in the Bristol Herald Courier and reprints of news reports. This whole sorry saga is a black eye on Washington County Virginia and Bristol Virginia that spent $2 million in legal fees fighting over this property in an annexation dispute.
County Leaders Were at Fault
Printed Bristol Herald Courier December 5, 2004
This entire Clear Creek Trailer Court debacle could easily have been prevented. It brings into question, is Bristol really a good place to live?
I commend the Bristol Herald Courier for covering this issue. That effort brought this travesty to the attention of a good man in Charlottesville that donated $1250.00 to save the home of one family. I wish to also commend the efforts of a small local Presbyterian church, and several other individuals that all want to remain anonymous.
I also commend Washington County Social Services. Despite limited funds and total lack of support from Washington Country government, your level of caring, professionalism, and hard work makes me proud to be a Washington County resident.
This stands in stark contrast to the actions of the Washington County Board of Supervisors. According to public records, they had to know at least a year in advance this was coming. These residents could have had almost two years to relocate if work starts in March 2005.
Most just couldn't come up with that kind of money and many trailer courts refused to take older homes. Human vultures descended on the park knowing people would be forced to sell for nothing or face the bulldozers by July. One couple sold their home for $300, not enough for the first months rent. Another women pleaded with the power company not to disconnect her even though her power bill was paid up. The situation was chaos made worse by vandals and thieves. Most couldn't even get their deposits back.
My county supervisor refused to be involved or intervene or even bring the subject up at a board meeting in June. That didn't stop him and fellow supervisors voting unanimously in May for a multi-million dollar incentives package for Mack Trammell without even knowing the actual cost of it.
In July I attended the Exit 7 annexation hearings. The state panel wasn't informed about Clear Creek while their supervisor that should have protected them bragged about our "progressive" community. After I brought it up, the panel to asked our local officials to please look into the situation.
Supervisors dumped the problem on social services with no funding or support. I had already sent many tenants there because nobody else bothered to inform them what was available or warned social services this mess was coming. Money didn't stop county supervisors from voting almost $800,000 for arts, entertainment, and road beautification.
While the trailer park lies empty and in ruins, this isn't over yet. Future sales tax revenues will not pay for actual cost of this project. $20 million or more in sewer, water lines, etc. that must be supplied in advance. This could have been supplied by Bristol, but a few supervisors didn't see it that way causing this costly and divisive legal fiasco. They aren't paying $800,000 in legal fees dumped on Bristol/Washington County residents either. All of this over a Home Depot they didn't even get.
We don't need this kind of "progressive" government in Washington County. Poor people shouldn't face the indifference and contempt they do in a community that expects them to work for a poverty wage and then kick them down because they are poor. End government by "executive session" and serve all residents. Real progressives, and decent Christians alike should never allow another travesty like this to happen.
Update for May 2005. I was right and the press has revealed the truth.
Set some new priorities
Bristol Herald Courier August 17, 2004
The events of this summer have revealed the true heritage of this region. While Bristol Virginia and Washington County fought like children over Exit 7, officials' failure to warn the residents of Clear Creek Trailer Court displayed only depraved indifference. They knew this in March 2003, and they didn't care.
Washington County officials, by being in direct partnership with Mack Trammell, have soiled the reputation of every resident in this county. It's bad enough we will pay to bulldoze Trammell's dirt, but they also voted in June for more than $1 million in government waste, but had nothing to relocate the county residents they helped displace. They plan to raise property taxes to cover it.
Rural Area Medical reveals the real results of tourism, retirement and retail industries - the sole industries sought after in the last few years by local officials. Wise has set new world records for the last four years. Many of these people work, but suffer chronic low pay and under employment. The same is revealed in high numbers of local children on free or reduced lunch. Seventy-five percent of those on food stamps work, but can't earn enough to live on. (Bristol Herald Courier, March 26)
RAM was once held at Wise Airport. While thousands lined up for service, U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher secured $2 million in pork for the airport to install instrument landing system equipment so fat cats could land their private planes in the rain. Boucher then proclaimed this would create thousands of new jobs (Coalfield Progress, Feb. 12, 2003) in the same way he touts tourism now.
With over $500,000 squandered on fixing an old barn in Carter's Fold and over $1 million squandered on the old Stanley house in Clintwood, can I see a list of those new jobs? Guess RAM proved such a big embarrassment they moved it.
It's time to stop the waste and set real priorities. It's about jobs and taxpayer funded strip malls and country music hype won't cut it.
Lewis Loflin Bristol, Va.
The following (in shortened form) was printed in the Bristol Herald Courier in December in response to the attitudes of Bristol City attorney Jim Bowie and other local leaders regarding their depraved indifference toward local residents they help throw in the street.
I present it in complete form as requested by Angela. Note that the Home Depot mentioned below went to another location and left Trammell Properties in a bind. I for one am glad Trammell might be better off now without it.
As a former resident of the mobile home park, I am outraged by this whole situation. And my comment to Jim Bowie, How dare you! Who do you think you are??How cold hearted are you?to say that I and my former neighbors from this park are "Probably Better off". You do not know any of these people nor do you even care about their welfare!
Let me tell you about my own situation that you and Mr. Trammell put me in due to no fault of my own.
I had to abandon my almost paid for home because I could not raise the money to move it by the original?July 20th deadline to be out. I had to sell some of my belongings just to file bankruptcy to avoid being sued for the balance of my home. I was working 2 jobs at the time of our letters, and that became the most heart wrenching, stressful time I have EVER endured in my life.
My nerves became so shot trying to work two jobs AND move, that I had to seek help from my family doctor, whom put me on nerve medication to keep what was left of my world from falling apart. This caused me to LOOSE one of?my Jobs from a local restaurant when I had to take my prescription medicine at work, ON MOTHERS DAY.
All of that didn't even include all the things that were stolen from me and other individuals living in the park. My father worked hard on the trailer he owned there. It was all stolen from him. He lost everything to thieves. When we called the police about the stolen items, they added insult to our injuries by telling us there was nothing we could do about it.
I have been accepted into a training program at a school in Wytheville Va. to train in a career that I could earn two and a half times the money I make now. Before the bankruptcy, I had great credit, but was at my limit, thus the reason for working 2 jobs.
But now my good credit is gone, and I cant get a loan for a simple $5,000 to better myself financially. I get letters everyday now saying I am pre-approved for $17,000, and $22,000 to buy a new car, but I cant get $5,000 to go to school!
I live in an apartment now. My basic cost of living has increased, and BVU will increase it even more come January, not to mention GAS heat. I struggle to make ends meet every month and am having difficulties gaining a new second job to help keep my world together. But I get up every day and go to work with my head held high so I don't loose what I have left.
So why don't you tell me how much better off I probably am now that I have moved out of the park. If I would have known about the sale of the park in November of 2003, (you knew before then) I could have saved enough money by now, to move my home.
Now we find out it will be spring before you start on the property for the Home Depot that you wanted to put on it. From April this year to Spring next year, I could have saved enough to move, or even bought land to move on. That was my plan before I got your letter.
With all the property up for sale down that strip of road from the county line to the park, Mr. Trammell had to interrupt the lives of 50?financially poor families, instead of 2 or 3 with for sale signs in front of them,?and couldn't even offer any help for the 50. But that's ok, were probably better off now.
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