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Mobile home residents in uproar over cut trees

Dave Moller
Senior Staff Writer

Residents at a Camptonville mobile home park are furious that their landlord had a logging firm cut about 200 trees in recent months and fear it could forever devalue their homes and hurt chances for resale.

The homeowners also said water and sewer problems have plagued the 38-space Rebel Ridge Village in recent years and are indicative of owner Gary Wall’s ambivalence to their concerns.

Wall said Monday he cut the trees for fire protection, took care of the water and sewer problems and is dealing with a small number of malcontents. He also said three large piles of wood chips from the operation left over in a field adjacent to the park will be removed this week.

“It’s for the safety of everyone,” Wall said about the tree cutting. “These trees were 200 feet tall, and if they fall, they’re going to take out five homes, not just one. I did it for insurance purposes and resale value. I did them a favor.”

Wall said he wanted to make the park more fire safe by cutting the trees and also because their roots were pushing into septic tanks, pushing up sidewalks, roads, driveways and homes.

He said he made about $9,000 off the lumber but had to pay $25,000 to have the trees cut, because many of them were right next to the mobile homes.

Wall’s explanation did not fly with park resident Rosalie Sautagada.

“It looks like an ugly, barren wasteland of the aftermath of a war,” Sautagada said. “They diminished the commercial value of our homes and rendered them impossible to sell.”

“The same people complaining about me cutting the trees are the same that complained about the roots,” Wall said. “They’re not happy with anything that happens in the park.”

Park tenants Tom Sargent and Arlene Houlette beg to differ. Both say the three large piles of chips are an aesthetic and fire safety problem.

They also said Wall allowed a failed septic tank to linger and push up sewage to the ground last year, despite their pleas, and he let the water system become tainted without their knowledge.

Yuba County housing officials sent Wall a letter in May 2007, telling him they were going to suspend his permit to operate because the water wasn’t drinkable. The notice was also based on sewage rising to the surface in the park for the first five months of 2007.

The conditions spawned a drafted but never-filed lawsuit calling for rent to be paid back to Sargent, Houlette, and other tenants Lee Dicey, Jack and Mary Gladding, Roxie Rollins and Stephen Moore.

According to Yuba County documents from January of this year, the park’s water system tested positive for coliforms in January, March and April 2007 and indicated harmful bacteria could have settled there. The county also issued a boil water order for the park on April 10, 2007.

Tenants claim Wall knew April 2, 2007, that the water might have bacteria in it and did not notify park residents for nine days. Wall denied the accusation, pointing to the April 10, 2007, letter.

Documents also show Wall installed a chlorinator system for the water system and arrested the problem right after getting the letter. He said he also fixed the septic tank for three spaces that had failed and residents said the surfacing problem has not returned.

Still, tenants aren’t pleased.

“It’s a chronic, ongoing issue with these owners, and then they raised the rent,” Sargent said. “We call them and it just rings and rings and rings. They never answer.”

“It’s such a mess, and it was so pretty,” Houlette said.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

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