On Tuesday, the eight trailers in question had already been condemned. In March, a Circuit Court judge had rejected the mobile park owner’s argument that the units should be hooked up to the power grid and residents allowed to return.
Holly Acres owner Hank Ridge has sued the county for $8 million, and each side accused the other Tuesday of exploiting its low-income tenants.
“You can’t let these people live there. It’s unsafe,” said Jason Grant, a county spokesman.
Omar Cervantes, 35, who has a wife and four daughters, said he has been living in his mobile home since January, using a generator and running electricity from surrounding units. He said he has few housing options and was told by the park’s manager that he could live in his trailer.
On Tuesday, he showed off the new floor, central air and appliances in his mobile home.
“You see?” he said, pointing to the floor. “It’s safe.”
On Tuesday, the citation given to residents said that the tenants should be evicted for “electrical work done without the required permits and inspections.”
County police, according to residents and the property manager, originally said they would arrest anyone who wasn’t off the property by 5 p.m. After media gathered and the property owner’s attorney, Mark Moorstein, arrived, officials decided that the deadline was too stiff and pushed it to a later date.
It’s unclear how much time officials now plan to give evicted residents, although the notices say they have 30 days to appeal.
Ray Jackson, a county code-enforcement inspector, said the offices of Police Chief Charlie T. Deane and County Executive Melissa Peacor dropped the 5 p.m. arrests on the eve of the holiday.
Jackson said that county officials received a phone call about the electrical cords and that officials found them in violation of county code. Officials also weren’t aware that residents had illegally moved back in.
Jackson said that residents should heed the eviction notices. “If they choose not to, they have been warned,” he said. “They were not approved to be in here in the first place.”
After Tropical Storm Lee, all units near the water were condemned and electricity cut, Jackson said. Permits must be sought and granted in order for a unit to be occupied.
Kelly Dickerson, the property manager, said that residents were told to make repairs before they could move in. The property, she said, has been providing them with water and sewer hookups and not charging them rent.
“We’re trying to save their lives,” Dickerson said.
Moorstein said both sides are making legitimate legal arguments. Because a county appeals board overturned officials’ original decision not to allow the property owner to rebuild and residents to return home, Moorstein said, the property should be legally bound by that decision until a court overturns it.
But officials say that residents cannot return unless they have the proper permits to do so.
“In your zeal to make these people safe, you’re going to put them out on the street?” he asked Jackson.
If a child is electrocuted because residents are illegally running power cords everywhere, the county will be blamed, Grant said. “I have no idea why they are willfully ignoring the law.”
Residents and their friends and relatives were relieved by Tuesday’s reprieve. Louis Garcia said he often visits his cousin, who lives with several others in a condemned mobile home. They plan to stay, he said.
“He ain’t got nowhere to go,” Garcia said.