There could be a potential buyer for a Derry Township mobile home park that was in danger of closing because of a sewage issue.
Residents learned in September that there was a chance that Longview Mobile Home Court could’ve been forced to close after Jan. 1 because of the sewage issue surrounding the park and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), displacing residents in more than 40 trailers.
Township solicitor Sam Dalfonso told interested residents on Tuesday that “from my understanding, (the mobile home park) is under sale right now.”
“It’s not a rumor,” he said. “I can tell you that there is a buyer, they are negotiating the terms and it’s almost done, from my understanding. I just haven’t seen the final document.”
Dalfonso added that parties are finalizing the terms of the agreement, and the attorney for the buyer and the DEP are working on a consent agreement, giving the potential new owner a period of time to comply with DEP regulations. He said the potential buyer asked for a list of closing companies in the area because staying local could expedite the process. Dalfonso said cost could be estimated upwards of $500,000 to bring the park into compliance, and that’s not including a purchase price.
“I also understand that the buyer has not balked at the cost, as well,” Dalfonso said. “That’s a good thing because my first conversation with him was, ‘Do you realize the dollar amount that you’re going to have to spend to even bring this up to compliance before you do anything else?’”
“And they were like, ‘Yes, we understand, we do this all over the country,’ so that’s moving forward.”
In 2016, the DEP received a complaint about raw sewage discharge on the mobile home park, which includes 42 mobile homes and two houses. Emil Bove, the township’s sewage enforcement officer, confirmed there was raw sewage being dumped onto the ground from one of the systems on the park, and a notice of violation was sent to John Bellish, who owned the park for 50 years.
Dalfonso said a DEP administrative order was put into place in May 2019, giving Bellish until Jan. 1 to stop the raw sewage from dumping onto the ground. At one point, there was the possibility of Bellish installing holding tanks as a temporary fix, until he could get the entire system repaired, but that didn’t happen.
The new developer would have to connect the park to the public sewage system.
“They’ll get a consent order, like what John has, and they’ll have a certain time to bring the park up to code, which has to be connected to public sewage,” Dalfonso said. “There were a few interested buyers early in the process, and then it kind of fell apart. All of the sudden, we got a call. We talked for awhile and I made sure he knew what he was getting into because I didn’t want this to fall apart at the last minute.”
Dalfonso noted that he initially received the call from the buyer’s representative in January.
“I’ve been speaking to one of the attorneys and kind of showing him where we’re at from the township’s perspective,” Dalfonso said. “I said that we’re in line with the DEP and whatever they want, I’m following suit. I’ve been putting them in contact with the DEP, and that’s kind of where we’re at right now. I set up a conference call and my understanding is they’re going to close on the property.”
It was rumored at the meeting that the prospective buyer was the owner of nearby Dogwood Acres, but Dalfonso couldn’t confirm.
“I don’t know how their corporate structure is set up,” Dalfonso said. “Dogwood could be a separate mobile home park from their other entities, but I don’t know. But there is a real-life buyer (for Longview). I spoke to them on the phone, I know they’re in talks with the DEP, so that’s moving forward. I just don’t know when or what’s going to be final when that happens.”
Dalfonso has been in contact with Gina Schelles, a representative from state Rep. Joseph A. Petrarca’s office.
“I have been talking to Gina quite a bit throughout this process and every time I see an email from her, I hold my breath because I don’t know if it’s going to be something about this in a bad way,” Dalfonso said. “I’m glad everything is going forward at least for right now.”
One resident said there were letters within the park stating residents had to be moved by April 1. Dalfonso was unaware of such letters and asked to forward that type of information to Petrarca’s office or the township supervisors for further investigation.
“Unfortunately, we don’t always are told what’s going on,” Dalfonso said. “I find out second-hand a lot of the time. I call the DEP immediately once we hear something, even if they don’t have jurisdiction over it. I’m letting them know what’s going on at the park as much as we can.”
Dalfonso said the DEP would have to file action within the commonwealth to begin park closure proceedings.
“That takes a long time,” Dalfonso said. “They have to file and basically act on that consent order. They’re still telling us that they’re going to (file) in the chance that this deal falls through somehow. To my knowledge, they haven’t filed any enforcement action yet, and they’ve never given us notice that they’ve done so yet. That doesn’t mean they haven’t (filed) because they don’t always tell us everything.”
Dalfonso did confirm to residents at the meeting that there was a potential buyer who is taking action to move forward and purchase the park. He said that Bellish is telling others that the sale is finished, and while a sale could be completed, he didn’t want to speculate because he hasn’t viewed a signed document.
The process might not be completed just yet, but Vince DeCario, chairman of the township supervisors, is happy that residents have hope of a potential buyer to possibly prevent the closure of the mobile home park.
“Some of the people, that’s all they have,” DeCario said. “For them to move somewhere, they don’t have the money to do it and a lot of those trailers can’t be moved because they’re so old. Some of them have been there for 40 years and they don’t want to just pick up and move. I’m glad that somebody’s buying it.”