Dotsero Mobile Home Park residents are trying to become Eagle County’s first resident-owned community
Residents have less than 60 days to secure financing and make an offer to buy the property where they live
The residents of the Dotsero Mobile Home Park are attempting to collectively purchase the park and become the first resident-owned community in Eagle County. The challenge is, they have less than 60 days left to secure financing and make an offer before the landlord can begin accepting bids from outside buyers.
A new statewide bill, signed into law in 2020, requires park owners who wish to sell their property to notify residents of the impending sale, and guarantees that residents will have 90 days after notification to organize into a cooperative and make a competitive offer before the landowner can sell the property.
Since being notified of the sale in early April, 64 of the 84 homeowners in the Dotsero Mobile Home Park have already signed on to join the aptly named Volcanic View Cooperative, and are now taking steps to become owners of the park that they call home. It’s a challenging road ahead, with a tight and imposing deadline, but with the help of the greater Eagle County community, these residents have the opportunity to secure their homes for decades to come.
A tight-knit community
The Dotsero Mobile Home Park is a tightly interconnected community. The park, located just off exit 133 on Interstate 70, started around 30 years ago, housing laborers who worked on the Glenwood Canyon project. It has since grown to 84 individual homes with an average of five occupants per structure, many of whom have lived on the property their entire lives.
Alondra Gardea, 25, is the vice president of the board for the Volcanic View Cooperative. Gardea shares a home with her husband and her 5-year-old daughter, and lives across from her parents and down the street from her sister.
“I’ve been here since I was a little toddler, and I grew up with so many people that live here. I mean, they watched me grow up,” Gardea said. “I can hope, if we do go through with this buy, that my daughter can raise her own family here someday, just like my parents raised me.”
Many of the residents are second- and third-generation members of the community, with roots that started in Mexico and remained intact as people followed friends and family to Eagle County in search of a better life.
The residents are banding together with the help of Thistle, a nonprofit organization based out of Boulder that provides technical assistance to mobile home parks in Colorado to help them transition to resident ownership. Resident-owned communities are still a rare occurrence in Colorado, but Thistle has successfully helped six communities transition to resident ownership since 2017, including a park in Leadville last fall.
Andy Kadlec is the program director at Thistle, and said that the strong showing of support from the Dotsero community is a crucial factor for attaining success.
“The law requires a minimum of 51% of the community to be in favor of a purchase, but from our perspective that can also mean that 49% are against it,” Kadlec said. “We really like to see a high level of engagement and interest, and I believe that this community has that. They’ve had fantastic attendance and turnout to meetings we’ve hosted, and have really shown a lot of interest in learning more about this process and what it would take to purchase their community.”
Gardea said that the residents are motivated to attain the security that comes with owning the land they live on, and want to have control of their futures.
“A lot of people want this, because we don’t know who the new owner would possibly be and what he wants to do with this land — if he will keep us here, or if he wants to build apartments or condos,” Gardea said. “You’re always living with that. Are they going to come now, are they going to tell us to leave, what are they going to do? Once it’s ours, no one is ever going to come and tell us anything, because it belongs to us.”
Ownership would also give the residents the ability to tackle much-needed improvements to the property. The park was not designed to be a permanent residence, so there are a number of infrastructure projects that need to be undertaken in order to support a healthy and durable residential community moving forward.
The most expensive project will be an overhaul of the park’s septic system, which is outdated and insufficient to meet the needs of the growing community.
In addition to the septic system, the water supply needs to be changed. Sourced from the base of the Dotsero volcano, the water that currently runs through the park’s pipes is undrinkable and, in most cases, entirely unusable due to high mineral content.
Kyleigh Morales, 32, is the president of the Volcanic View Cooperative. She said that the only way that the community can access clean water is to purchase water bottles and jugs in bulk from Costco.
“We need six to eight cases every time we go, because that’s our cooking water, that’s our cleaning water, that’s our drinking water,” Morales said. “If, say, women want to dye their hair, it turns green. It’s like you’re going swimming every day. You can’t cook with it, you can’t wash your car with it, you can’t even grow grass because of the water.”
Morales said that the poor water quality causes a myriad of issues and extra costs for residents, corroding water heaters, washing machines, and pipes to the point where they must be replaced on an annual basis. In order for the community to get fresh water into their pipes, they would have to tap into another water source.
The current landowner has also neglected road repairs in the park for many years, resulting in large potholes and dangerous cracks that make it difficult for cars to access the community.
“It’s hard watching a place where you call home, where the owner doesn’t take responsibility for some of the stuff that should have been done,” Morales said. “But we can’t really do it when our hands are tied to get it fixed. So this is the only way for us to get it fixed, is to buy the community ourselves.”
In order to secure a loan from the bank, the Volcanic View Cooperative first needs to contract an engineer to estimate the costs of undertaking these three big infrastructure projects. Kadlec said that including the costs of major repairs into the loan is a necessary step for ensuring the long-term viability of a resident-owned community.
“A really important aspect is doing a deep analysis of what major projects they might need to assume in the first 10 years of ownership, and assure that they have appropriate financing to take care of that so they’re not cash strapped in five years if an infrastructure project goes awry and they have to pay a million dollars for something,” Kadlec said. “This is a big decision for the community, and ensuring they have resources and the information at their hands to make a qualified decision whether or not to move forward with the purchase really relies on understanding that.”
At this stage of the process, finding and financing an engineer to provide that survey is the biggest roadblock that the cooperative is facing. Morales said that the estimated cost of the survey is around $10-15,000 dollars, and that they cannot proceed to the next step of the process without it.
“Right now, we’re at a standstill,” Morales said. “We’re having a really hard time finding an engineer that can do it in such short notice, because we only have 90 days, and that ends on July 1. We also need to raise the funds for the engineer, and it’s not a cheap expense. Our only option right now is to ask our little community to help fund that.”
The community has started a GoFundMe Page to help raise the money necessary to finance the survey, and plans to hold a cookout later in the month to try and raise additional funds.
Morales said that residents’ ambitions for the property don’t end with the necessary infrastructure projects. She said that people have dreams of finally growing grass and flowers on their property — not just cleaning it up, but beautifying it — and that in time they hope to create a park that they can all be proud of, one that no longer invites the cruel but common nickname “Dot-Ghetto.”
“That’s literally what they call it, and it was no one’s intention, ever, of getting to that point,” Morales said. “This is hope for everybody, because everyone thought that it wouldn’t get better, and now that we have the opportunity to buy it, this is everyone’s dream. Which is kind of crazy for 84 households to have the same goal: to fix it up, make it better, make it what we’ve always wanted to see.”
Maintaining affordable workforce housing
The call for reliable and affordable workforce housing in Eagle County grows with each passing year, and the Dotsero Mobile Home Park is providing exactly that for dozens of families who work throughout the valley.
Marlene Rios, 19, came to the park as a child with her mother and two younger sisters.
“My mom is a single mother, and this was the only place that she was able to come in and have enough money to start having a home for us,” Rios said. “We actually started in a really small trailer, and we worked until we were finally able to get a bigger one for our family.”
Today, Rios is a graduate of Eagle Valley High School, has been working at Alpine Bank through Eagle County’s CareerWise program for three years, and is currently pursuing a degree in psychology at Colorado Mountain College’s Vail Valley campus in Edwards. When she heard about the opportunity to buy the park, she stepped up to serve as treasurer of the Volcanic View Cooperative, because she has experienced first-hand how transformative it is to own your own home.
“We’ve all grown up here, and I’ve loved it,” Rios said. “I think we all love the peace of just knowing that you won’t have someone come and bother you, that it’s just your space right there. You can just be you, without worrying about who has to say something, who’s going to complain.”
If the Dotsero Mobile Home Park is sold to an outside buyer, the new landlord could raise rental rates at will or force the residents off the land entirely. If that happens, the entire community would be pushed into an already overcrowded housing market, with very few, if any, options that resemble the current prices that they pay for housing.
“Everything is so expensive here and there’s really nowhere to go,” Gardea said. “I mean, there’s a wait list that’s so long — apartments, houses are expensive. It’d be really hard to go anywhere else.”
“It’s about $1,300 per room in Eagle County that you’re renting for,” Morales said. “Here, that money could go to our property. We can put the money back. With the loan we have to pay off, rent would only increase by a couple of hundred, instead of where if a new person comes in, it could go up thousands. It’s just worth a lot more to us than it would be to somebody else.”
The clock is ticking, and the board of the Volcanic View Cooperative is now turning to the greater Eagle County community to help support the process and get them to the bidding table before it’s too late.
“We can’t do it on our own, which is hard for some people to say, but we need help. Dotsero Trailer Park needs the help,” Morales said. “I think everyone is scared of what will happen if someone else does buy it, so we’re trying our hardest. If the community is willing to help us, we’re all willing to help other people, too.”
To donate to the Volcanic View Cooperative, search for the fundraiser titled “A better future for Dotsero’s community” on GoFundme.com. To connect with the board members and share contacts, resources or ideas, email email@example.com.
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