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Officials meet on trailer park cooperative

AUDUBON -- Will residents of the Audubon Mobile Home Park embrace the possibility of becoming a resident-owned cooperative?

In order to realize that possibility, the majority of the residents will need to make a commitment toward becoming a part of the cooperative, said representatives from the Northcountry Cooperative Foundation (NCF) in a meeting with Audubon city officials on Monday.

NCF is a 501c3 nonprofit, based in Minneapolis, whose primary focus is on converting manufactured home communities into resident-owned cooperatives.

Currently, there are four resident-owned manufactured home communities in Minnesota.

NCF has been brought in as a consultant to determine the feasibility of moving forward with such a project in Audubon.

"You need three things ... a willing seller, a willing buyer, and the economics have to be right," said Wayne Kramer, NCF executive director, at Monday's meeting.

The first of those factors is already in place. Tom Bender, who has been the owner of the mobile home park for about 25 years, said at Monday's meeting that he's looking toward retirement, and while he has not yet listed it for sale, his ultimate intention is to sell the park.

He told city officials at Monday's meeting that he's looking at a selling price of about $425,000.

The NCF representatives will meet with residents of the trailer park this Saturday, April 24 to determine whether there is sufficient interest in moving ahead with a resident-owned cooperative.

The meeting will take place from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the Audubon Community Center, and is open to all residents of the trailer park. Currently, 25 of the 32 units in the mobile home park are occupied.

One of the chief benefits of a resident-owned park, Kramer said, is that it "can't be sold out from under them."

One resident of the park, Randal Stone, was in attendance at Monday's meeting, and said, "It sounds good... I'm interested in this."

Stone said he and his wife moved to the park three years ago as a place to retire, and he wants it to be upgraded to become a more viable piece of the community.

But he also pointed out that he has a few misgivings about the fact that in a resident-owned cooperative setting, the residents all have a stake in the park as a whole, but do not own their individual lots.

Kramer noted that a condominium-style community, where each resident owns their lot individually, is also an option -- but requires a much larger up-front investment.

These options and more will be discussed at Saturday's meeting, as well as the structure and function of manufactured home cooperatives, and what, if any, interest there is among the residents in proceeding with the process.

One thing that will need to be dealt with before the project can move forward is determining the extent of water and sewer infrastructure improvements that will need to be made.

A third and final follow-up meeting will be held on May 17 to determine whether to move forward with the project.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454