Monday, October 22, 2012


This Saturday when I ventured down to the Seminole Estates manufactured home community in Hollywood, Florida, I noticed a distinct change in its physical appearance. Piles of rubbish and uprooted trees appear on front lawns, the sounds of heavy machinery fill the air, and waste removal trucks, dumpsters, and Uhauls occupy parking spots. Seminole Estates is sporting that unkempt post-natural disaster look, but the residents are actually just responding to a man-made disaster decision to close the park.
Faith remains as residents of Seminole Estates dismantle their lives.
Five weeks ago, the Seminole Tribe of Florida took control of the management of the community and announced the June 30, 2013 closing of the residential community that was originally intended to operate until 2024. Within 24 hours of the STOF's public decision, all recreational amenities and meeting facilities were padlocked. Homeowners, already saddened and angered by the eviction, rendered even more powerless, robbed of any air-conditioned common space where they might commiserate and potentially gather strength to refute the act.

Fit-Mess: With pool and gym locked, residents now build muscle lifting boxes onto moving trucks and carrying parts of their home to the curb.

As the community unravels, some neighbors are sticking together. On one particular street, three homeowners are relocating to Sunshine Village in Davie. Diane Gannett is one of them. When I met Diane, she was up on the roof of her home dismantling her carport. Diane works full-time and deals with all the house stuff after hours and on weekends. She can't ask for anymore time off because long before the eviction was announced, she had reserved time off in November for her children's weddings.  Diane is in overdrive.
Diane Gannett: "They're tearing us apart."

Bud and John help Diane dismantle the shed addition.

Across the street, I see Marilyn looking out the sliding glass doors of her kitchen as a Bobcat takes aim at her front porch. When she comes out of her home, I walk over. Marilyn has lived at Seminole Estates for 41 years, and in her current 2005 Skyline home for five. Recently retired, she does not wish to stay in a place where she is no longer welcome and is motivated to get on with the next stage of her life at Sunshine Village. Marilyn gently stretches the neckline of her top a bit to reveal a tattoo. She says, "I thought about getting a tattoo for ten years and then in 20 minutes I had this one." Marilyn is a woman of action.
Marilyn will spend $2,500 at an extended stay hotel while her home is relocated. The hotel can accommodate her cats too.
Sounds of jack hammering fill the air as Marilyn's porch is about to go down.
Signs of exodus are not only evident in the rubble, they are literally staked into the ground as manufactured home communities in Broward and Palm Beach counties recruit homes for empty lots. Communities such as Coral Cay in Margate, Country Knolls in Pompano, and Rexmere Village in Davie are striking deals that lessen the financial burden on the displaced residents while simultaneously meeting lot occupancy needs. Coral Cay manager Eric Toledo is offering up to $25,000 for relocation plus a few other perks in exchange for each homeowner's promise to keep their home on the lot for 10 years. Homes must first pass inspection. So far Toledo has placed over 30 homes, one of which belongs to Kathy Maynard, the first Seminole Estate resident that I met and now a new friend.

Signs of mass exodus: Lakeshore has an office at Seminole Estates and offers complimentary shuttles to its Pompano Beach community twice a day.

While Diane, Marilyn, and Kathy are proactive and own homes built after 2000, there are plenty of others whose lives still hang in the unknown. Many of these folks own old homes (one of my favorites below) which are more prone to damage in a move. And some communities won't accept these older homes anyway. Tim Kirby, manager at Deerfield Lake in Coconut Creek, says "For us to move a home it has to be wind zone 3 and that means it has to be a 1995 or newer." Tim has placed 2 Seminole Estates homes in his community which was practically full to capacity at the time of the eviction.

At the pop-up Lakeshore Community office here at Seminole Estates, Bunnie is minding the desk. She is friendly and open. This is not her usual gig, but Bunnie is a seasoned land-leasing pro and now a self-confessed consoler.  "I listen, I feed them, and they usually leave in a better mind set. They're not angry at us," says Bunnie who assists people through the overwhelming process of moving a manufactured home. Bunnie continues, "I've seen it all, but nothing like this. These people are not beggars; they just need some help."


Kathkath said...

Thanks again Jane, for your continued commentary on the plight of the victims of Seminole Estates. I am glad to have met such a caring and compassionate person!

Anonymous said...

The management and the Seminole Indians think they are above the law.. The Community manager posted a warning/ threat that homeowners who spoke to a laywer would not get the $3,000 promised for there homes and they could cause there neighbors not to get it.. She also put screws on homes she has not got possession of.
This women is making promises to residents that she can not and as no intention of keeping. She has denied access to residents to there homes with out a wit of possession bu turning off gate access cards. The list goes on on the I am above the Law abuse the residents of Seminole Estate are getting.. They are not above the law all leagal matters must be heard in a Federal court

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