By Rebecca Gaunt
The remaining residents of the Castle Lake Mobile Home Park are looking for new homes as the city of Kennesaw moves forward on plans to annex and rezone 33 acres from unincorporated Cobb County at 1650 N. Cobb Pkwy and 1880 Old 41 Hwy.
Related Development, LLC, which is in the process of purchasing the land from the current owners, is providing relocation assistance for residents still living there as a condition of the Kennesaw zoning application process. Daniel Harari, acquisitions manager for Related, submitted documentation to the city in advance of Monday’s vote that shows the company’s progress in working with the occupants of the 61 mobile homes.
According to the document, eight residents have already sold their homes, twelve have offers, four have already moved or are scheduled to, and eight wish to move their trailer to a new location. The occupants of 29 residences are still trying to figure out what they will do.
Due to the age of the park, not all the homes can be moved.
One 43-year-resident of the park told the Planning Commission in August that she lives on a fixed income. According to the relocation document, she still has not figured out where she can go for $700 a month. The Courier tried to contact her for comment, but the phone number listed online was disconnected.
During the September Planning Commission meeting, another resident asked if it would be possible to remain until the school year ended in May because she didn’t want her child to have to change high schools.
Harari explained it wasn’t possible to extend for that long due to the expectation of the lenders and investors in the project, but said he would work with her individually on providing transportation funds so her child could finish the year in his current school.
Based on the discussions at the Planning Commission, it was apparent that residents will still be able to live in the park through December, but the Courier was not able to obtain the exact deadline by which everyone must be out.
Some of the residents expressed concerns that apartment rental costs in the area exceed what they were paying, and the requirements for deposits and credit scores made the moving process more difficult if not completely unaffordable.
According to Harari, Related is providing legal assistance to owners with liens on their property or with title issues. For those who choose to relocate their homes, he is trying to coordinate a deal with a moving company so that the occupants don’t have to come out of pocket for those costs.
In addition, residents will receive $3,500 in relocation assistance for single-wide mobile homes and $5,000 for double-wides.
“One of our hopes is that with the funds that they get from selling their mobile homes and the money they get from us, they’ll have enough money to eventually buy a starter home, rent a single-family home, rent an apartment – somewhat of an upgrade,” Harari told the Planning Commission on Sep. 1. “So that’s something we’re really trying to work hard on is to make sure their quality of life is also being improved by this process.”
Before Related can release the assistance funds, the City Council must approve the project. Upon approval, Harari said his plan is to release half the funds the week after Sep. 20, and the balance the week before they leave the park.
One resident raised concerns about ticketing by management that has taken place in the past for infractions like parking on grass. Unpaid tickets have been used previously to withhold deposits when residents moved out. Harari assured residents that they would all receive their deposits back and that park management told him that kind of ticketing ceased years ago.
A group of residents filed a class action lawsuit against the owners of the mobile home park in 2015, accusing them of unlawful fines and penalties and for inflating water bills and pocketing the difference.
The matter has gone before the Kennesaw Planning Commission twice now, with many of the residents in attendance. After communication issues at the first meeting, Related provided a Spanish interpreter at the second one. The company will provide an interpreter at Monday’s Council meeting as well.
One of the residents who has been assisting Harari told the Planning Commission he was doing a great job helping residents with the relocation.
Related requested a rezoning of the parcels from county mobile home park (MHP), city general commercial (GC) and city office/institutional (OI) to city planned village community (PVI).
Development plans include 332 multi-family residential units, 63 townhomes, trails and pedestrian access to Kennesaw Marketplace, the Noonday Creek trail system and Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. It is the second phase of the Kennesaw Marketplace development, which sits across Noonday Creek on 52 acres that used to be part of the mobile home park. Those residents had to move in 2015 when Fuqua Development built phase one, a shopping mall with a Whole Foods Market.
The Cobb County Board of Commissioners approved the de-annexation of the unincorporated island between Old 41 Highway, Barrett Parkway and Cobb Parkway in August.
Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.