CONWAY — After months of study, it’s decision time for members of Black Bear Village Cooperative Inc., the group of Lamplighter Mobile Home Park residents, about whether they want to purchase their Conway mobile home community.
Members of Black Bear will act on three key votes at a membership meeting today at 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria at Kennett High.
The first vote is whether to accept the findings of an engineering review by Jones and Beach Engineering; the second is whether to accept a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant; and the third is to act on buying the community property for $10,250,000.
“This is all about us being masters of our own living conditions,” said Tom Moughan, vice president of Black Bear Village Cooperative.
“We’re at 140 members in the cooperative out of 213 possible owners in the park,” said Moughan on Monday, noting that eariler this month residents got a packet about the engineering study, a summary of park operation costs and information pertaining to what lot rental rates would be under different scenarios were the cooperative to purchase the park.
The Black Bear board held information sessions last Friday and Saturday at the Lamplighter Community Center.
“We added about five people at those sessions. We also did another session Tuesday,” said Moughan.
He said attendees expressed concerns about a possible rent increase, how Black Bear would manage the park and who would manage it.
“We explained we would have two firms involved: one to run the business and one to run the actual property management aspects, including trimming and cutting the common areas and snowplowing in winter,” said Moughan.
The park was put up for sale for $10 million last November by the Hynes Group of Vancouver, British Columbia.
Hynes accepted an offer of up to its asking price from RHP of Farmington, Mich.
But under New Hampshire law (RSA 205-A:21), residents of a mobile home community may make a matching offer and have first right of refusal.
Park residents, who own their mobile homes but lease their lots, had formed a cooperative when the park was listed for sale in 2009.
Last year, they reactivated Black Bear Village Cooperative to explore the purchase option with the non-profit New Hampshire Resident Owned Communities (NH-ROC), a division of the non-profit New Hampshire Community Loan Fund.
Representatives of potential buyer RHP met with residents and Community Loan Fund representatives last fall at Cranmore Mountain Resort. Meetings also were held at Kennett High.
In January, with the town serving as the go-through government entity, the tenants’ cooperative began the process of applying for a $500,000 federal low income community grant through the Community Development Grant program, to be applied toward the purchase.
Moughan and Black Bear President Jim Anderson met with with town and block grant officials in February at the community, which is located in Conway off Route 16 just south of Banners Restaurant.
With the assistance of ROC-NH and Community Loan Fund, the cooperative matched the $10 million sale price, and that offer was accepted by the Hynes Group on Feb. 24.
The grant was approved by the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority on April 4.
“It’s been a very busy few months,” said Moughan.
In the interim, a required appraisal of Lamplighter Mobile Home Park’s value was conducted, putting the value at $10,250,000 — higher than the $10 million offer accepted by the Hynes Group.
As a result of that, Moughan said, the block grant agency concluded that its guidelines require Black Bear to come up with an additional $250,000. The federal agency concluded that the Lamplighter purchase is considered an “involuntary” sale and that the higher amount ($10,250,000) must be paid as if the purchase came under an eminent domain category.
“The effect of that ruling means that half of the value of the $500,000 grant will have to be diverted to the park’s owner, the Hynes Group of British Columbia, Canada. In the end, the tenants would end up netting less than half of the grant since all administrative cost of the grant will be deducted from the overall grant, leaving Lamplighter tenants with approximately $225,000. And leaving Hynes corporation with an unexpected $250,000 windfall,” Mooughan said.
Despite that unanticipated $250,000 windfall for the Hynes Group, Moughan said it is still economically favorable for the residents to move forward.
“I think we’ve got some pretty good news to share with residents,” said Moughan. “I was hoping the monthly lot rental increase that people were expecting would put the monthly rate at lower than $500, and it is.”
He said with the help of the $500,000 block grant, the monthly lot rental would increase only $19, to $484 a month.
Without the $500,000 block grant, the purchase price would be $10 million, and the increase would be $26 a month, raising the rental rates to $491 a month.
“Most people I have spoken with understand that rents will go up either way and our rent increase would be pretty reasonable to make it possible for us to own and manage our own park,” said Moughan.
Had the cooperative’s share of the $500,000 block grant not been reduced, the lot rent increase would have been about $15.
“It’s not a killer, but it is disappointing — but again, this is still about our being masters of our own destiny,” said Moughan.
For more information, call Moughan at (603) 733-6578.