Trailer owner who survived blaze’s wrath feels burnt by park’s rules
Marilyn Migliaccio is in a tough spot.
When the Coal Seam Fire whipped through the Storm King Mobile Home Park, it left her home damaged but intact, but robbed her of her reasons for living there.
The shady trees that gave her home a feeling of solitude and protection were gone. Her closest neighbors lost their homes.
And worst of all, her feeling of safety is gone because the steep hillside right next to the mobile home is poised to pummel the trailer with tons of dirt, debris and water.
So she decided to move.
But as she looked into selling the home, she discovered that park rules won’t allow a mobile home that’s 20 years old or older to remain in the park after it is sold. This means Migliaccio can sell her 1982 Windsor trailer, but the buyer will have to find a new park to move it to.
Unfortunately, its location in Glenwood Springs gave the trailer much of its value, so if it must be moved, it would be worth far less than the $15,000 she still owes on it.
The 20-year rule
The rule that prohibits an old trailer from remaining at the park seemed innocuous at first. In fact, Migliaccio doesn’t even remember if it was in effect when she bought the trailer. It was, according to the trailer park’s owner.
But in the wake of the fire, she’s learned that the rule could mean the difference between paying off her creditors and starting over, or declaring bankruptcy.
Although she still has the option of living at the park, Migliaccio said she can’t sleep there anymore. The constant stress from evacuations, coupled with her fear of flooding and mudslides, keeps her awake at night.
On top of the debt owed on the trailer, it would cost her $3,000 to move it. So, she says, her only choice is to sell it.
“I am no longer able to live there,” she said. “Everything around me burned. It’s not the same property I bought.”
Migliaccio has asked for an exemption to the 20-year rule so she can sell the home, pay off her loan and start over. She pointed out that the structure itself is still in pretty good shape and she feels it doesn’t make the park look run-down.
Her attorney, Donald Kaufman, said such an exemption is allowed under park rules.
Kaufman, who agreed to help Migliaccio on a pro bono basis, said it could be clearly stipulated on any sales contract that if Migliaccio is allowed to sell it and the trailer is sold again, it would have to be moved.
Although such a stipulation would likely decrease Migliaccio’s selling price for the trailer, Migliaccio still thinks if the trailer were allowed to remain at the park, she would be able to sell it for enough money to pay off her debt.
“She’s not looking at making a profit,” Kaufman said. She only expects to walk away, lose her investment, but be able to pay off the $15,000 debt on the mobile home.
If you do it for one …
Storm King Mobile Home Park owner Carol Fuller, a longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident, said she offered Migliaccio $6,000 for the mobile home.
The offer, made by Storm King Park manager Warren Pennington, called for Fuller to pay Migliaccio $500 a month for one year, based on the proceeds from renting out the trailer, Kaufman said.
Fuller said she’s bought 23 homes from people at the park for fair market value and she’s proud to have kept the park as it was when she bought it. Keeping Storm King a trailer park, she said, gives lower-income people one of the few places in the valley where they can afford to live.
“I’ve lost a lot of friends from the area because of the shift,” she said, referring to the valley’s ever-growing cost of living, which forces many to leave.
Fuller, who hasn’t charged Migliaccio the usual $350-per-month lot rent since the fire, also said she told Migliaccio of plans to fix up the park, making it better and safer than it was before the fire. If Migliaccio stays – which Fuller said she is welcome to do – she will be able to enjoy these improvements.
But once the trailer changes owners, it must be hauled off, Fuller said.
Fuller also said the 20-year rule existed when Migliaccio signed her lease, and has been in effect since before she bought the 54-lot park. It exists, she said, to try and keep the park respectable and clear of old, broken-down mobile homes.
“She’s welcome to sell it, but it must be moved,” Fuller said.
Fuller fears if she exempts the rule for Migliaccio, she’ll be inundated with requests by other tenants who want equal treatment.
“If I allowed her to do it, everyone else would want to,” she said. “She’s welcome to sell it, but it can’t be sold in place.”
Fair market value?
Migliaccio said $6,000 is much less than fair market value and that the home should be allowed to stay because of the exceptional circumstances.
Migliaccio has been dealing with Pennington. But Fuller said she has the final word, not Pennington.
“It just turned 20 years old in 2002,” Migliaccio said. “If (Pennington) would waive that rule, consider what would happen: He would be able to get rent, and I would be able to pay off my loan.”
A letter written by Kaufman asks Pennington to waive the rule and said the offer of $6,000 for the trailer takes “unfair, unconscionable advantage of the position she has been placed in as a result of the fire.”
“Those rules can be waived,” Kaufman said. “And I can’t think of a better circumstance than a major natural disaster.”
But Fuller, who also took a major economic hit from the fire, said she’s trying to do the best she can with what’s left.
“I offered her a fair amount,” she said.
Insult to injury
To add to her troubles, Migliaccio said she’s getting the run-around from her insurance company.
“They haven’t sent (money). They’re nitpicking everything now,” she said. “I haven’t received any insurance money at all.”
So far, she said, her insurance company has reduced her damage compensation from $9,000 to $7,000.
“Basically the insurance company isn’t going to give me enough money to fix it,” she said.
And because a claim is pending, Migliaccio said she doesn’t think she’s eligible for any other type of assistance.
“I feel in this disaster, the humane thing would be to let me sell it to pay off the loan,” Migliaccio said.
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