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Homestead Village may be spared

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Homestead Village, the secluded 38-acre mobile home park in North Raleigh whose days looked numbered when we wrote about it a few weeks ago, looks like it may be spared the rezoning ax.

Cary Joshi, a partner in WJ Properties, the Raleigh firm that was seeking to rezone the property for a shopping center-office combo and 200 new houses, told the Indy the firm is dropping the project and withdrawing from the rezoning case.

Homestead Village residents are thrilled.

"Oh, my goodness!" said an exultant Claudia Shows, a 34-year park resident, when we told her the news. "I can't believe it. I'm flabbergasted."

Shows said she'd been writing and re-writing her testimony for next week's hearing in front of the Raleigh Planning Commission—a plea that the rezoning be rejected and that she, her husband, Buddy, and their fellow residents be allowed to keep their homes.

Shows said word started circulating around Homestead Village this morning that the owner planned to start fixing up the park, but no one was sure what was motivating the improvements.

Following several postponements, the Raleigh Planning Commission had listed the project for discussion at its next scheduled meeting Aug. 5.

WJ Properties took an option to purchase the park from its longtime owner, Bob Binns, who technically could try to keep the rezoning application alive at next week's meeting, but would have to do so without a development plan. He could not be reached for comment.

Had WJ Properties' plans for the redevelopment gone through, park residents—including some who've lived there since it opened in 1973—would have had 180 days to relocate. Many were worried because they hadn't been able to find another park willing to accept their old trailer home units—and some wondered whether their trailers could be moved at all.

Progressive policy advocates, meanwhile, saw the park's potential demise as a loss in the fight for additional affordable housing options and an illustration of why the state should offer financial incentives to preserve such parks where they exist. A measure, House Bill 1700, to provide mobile-home park owners with a tax deduction if they sell to someone who will maintain the park passed the House this year, and a version of it was subsequently folded into the state budget, making it law. It was sponsored by state Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe.

Adam Rust, research director for the Community Reinvestment Association of North Carolina and author of the book This is My Home, about the status of trailer-park homes around the country, said CRA-NC and allied housing groups are trying to create a fund that would help prospective buyers rehabilitate aging parks like Homestead Village.

Joshi said sour market conditions, including the current tight lending environment, made the commercial elements of the WJ project untenable. The stores and offices were to have been located along northbound Capital Boulevard, where the entrance to the park, its swimming pool and a convenience store and bar currently exist. The houses would've been built behind the retail and business portion of the development, replacing the 180 trailer-home lots. The tract is about one-third of a mile north of the intersection of I-540 and Capital Boulevard, separated from it by an existing residential subdivision.

This story has been updated since it was posted.

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