Protesters rally about Buck Bay

Published: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

Some Buck Bay Mobile Home Park residents say they're not leaving without a fight.

About two dozen park residents and their allies protested Sunday at Gainesville City Hall. They're fighting plans that would force them to leave the park, located near State Road 121 and U.S. 441.

"We do not want to lay down and take this. We want to keep our homes," said Lisa Evans, 41, who has lived in the park 14 years.

Residents have been told they must leave their mobile home community located just off SR 121 by September 2008, clearing the way for permanent homes to be built there. But residents hope they'll be able to stay by either challenging the park's new zoning designation or buying the 144-lot park themselves.

Gainesville city commissioners granted the park's previous owner, Tom Spain, a zoning amendment in August that allows homes to be built on the lots. Spain subsequently sold the park to Gainesville developer Edwin Dix, who told residents they would have to leave for a housing development to be built.

Dix attended Sunday's rally but declined comment.

Residents hope city commissioners will reverse the zoning change at a Feb. 12 meeting. Some commissioners have said they wouldn't have approved the change if they knew residents would be kicked out, and instructed the city attorney to investigate their options.

The Rev. Milford Lewis Griner, who spoke at Sunday's protest, said residents have been treated unfairly in the process. Griner, who doesn't live at the park but said he considers himself an honorary resident, urged residents to attend the next commission meeting on the issue.

"There is strength in numbers," he said.

Residents say the zoning change is only one aspect of their fight. They also plan to try to pool funds to buy the park, which they say should be allowed under an agreement with the previous owner.

The park's prospectus said residents would get a year's notice of any sale and the chance to buy lots at 10 percent below the anticipated price. But Mike Morabito, 50, said residents were never given that chance.

"We were not treated fairly, we were not treated with respect," he said.

Ralph Humphrey, 60, said he moved to the park three years ago with the belief it would be the place he and his wife lived the rest of their lives.

Now he worries about being able to move his ailing wife and the aging mobile home. He said the lack of available spaces in mobile homes parks in the area makes moving difficult for everyone.

"If they eliminate 140 families from Buck Bay there will be more homeless," he said.

Nathan Crabbe can be reached at 352-338-3176 or crabben@

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