Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream Holdings Inc. and Howard County paid dozens of families to abandon their homes in a 32-acre mobile home park in North Laurel last summer to clear the way for what's being billed as the world's biggest ice cream plant.
To entice residents at Pfister Mobile Home Park to leave by July 1, Dreyer's and the county paid them $10,000 per unit, Howard officials said.
Company officials did not return calls seeking comment about the arrangement Dreyer's made to clear 71 families from one of the oldest mobile home parks in Howard. The Oakland, Calif., company also has provided no details about how much it paid the Pfister family to acquire the 32 acres at Route 1 and Whiskey Bottom Road.
The land was owned by the three daughters and the grandson of Frances and Paul Pfister, who opened the park in 1948.
People involved in the deal said that all the residents left by the deadline and that the Howard County Department of Housing and Community Development helped some of them relocate. Leonard Vaughan, the agency's director, said the county chipped in about $2,500 of the $10,000 in some cases.
Pfister's mobile home park was one of many along the Route 1 corridor, and its sale is another sign of change as the county tries to revitalize the blighted area that connects Elkridge, Jessup, Savage and North Laurel.
Frances and Paul Pfister emigrated in 1923 from Germany to Baltimore, where they owned a grocery and meat market. After World War II, they moved to North Laurel, a rural community at the time, and raised chickens before opening the mobile home park.
Their son, Paul Jr., and three daughters inherited the park when Frances Pfister died in 1993. Paul Pfister Jr. ran the park until he died four years ago, leaving his share to his son, Mark, and wife to manage, according to two people familiar with the mobile home park.
For more than a year, Dreyer's has been considering the property as it explored plans to expand its manufacturing plant in North Laurel. This month, it said it would invest $180 million to enlarge that plant and build a distribution center for its Edy's, Nestle and Haagen-Dazs brands. The expansion should add at least 300 full-time jobs to the 250 existing ones, company and county officials said when unveiling the deal this month.
Eager to secure the new investment at Dreyer's, the county agreed to defer $1 million in property taxes for four years and to invest $1 million in road access and infrastructure improvements, officials said.
Maryland kicked in its own incentives, which it has yet to disclose. One thought is that the state might reimburse Dreyer's for its payments to the Pfister residents, said Richard W. Story, chief executive of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.
In addition to the $10,000 payments, the park's owners agreed that residents who accepted the money would not have to pay rent of up to $400 per month during the remainder of their time there, Story said. They also waived the $2,000 demolition fee for residents who abandoned their units, instead of moving them to another mobile home park. Most of the homes were abandoned.
Construction on the site has begun. The new facility is expected to open in 2007.