EXETER – Amidst concerns from both members of the Exeter Town Council and the Exeter Planning Board regarding the Split Rock Mobile Home Park, the town council said the building inspector is in the process of assessing the situation at the park on South County Trail.
The planning board and the town council discussed the issue at a joint work session Monday.
The questionable status of the park came to the attention of the planning board and town council when Susan Littlefield, a member of the planning board and veterinarian, made a house call to one of the trailers in the park.
“It was not pretty,” Littlefield said. “I did a drive-by a couple of days ago and it looks like there are at least seven [trailers] abandoned in there, but it’s not easy to tell what’s abandoned and what isn’t.”
William Monahan, town council vice president, said the building inspector, Ronald A. DeFrancesco, is in the process of assessing the situation and is expected to return a report back to the council in August.
“We will then be in a position to act on it,” Monahan said of the situation.
J. Michael Abbott, chair of the planning board, also said he drove through the mobile home park.
“I was likewise aghast,” Abbott said. “I didn’t realize the condition and how poor conditions have gotten there. There are poor facilities that look like fire hazards and rodent hazards.”
Abbot said some of the trailers were open and lacked windows.
“There were household bits coming out the windows,” he said.
Again, Monahan said the council couldn’t act on the situation until the building inspector returns his report next month.
The issue is also complicated by the fact that one individual owns the property, who then leases it to the trailer owners.
Francis DiGregorio, a planning board member, called the issue “complex.”
“There are two parties to deal with,” he said. “And some people who haven’t paid rent in two years. The owner doesn’t have much control over what they do [with their trailers.] It’s a real dilemma, and as much as a social problem, as it is a physical and habitat problem.”
Bill Haas of the planning board called for the fire marshal to get involved.
“I think the fire marshal can have a major impact on this if you want him or her to,” he said.
Abbott said the planning board’s intent is not to “kick anyone out” of their homes, but said ultimately the planning board hopes to acquire the Split Rock property and use as a site for developing affordable housing.
“That would be a big, big score for us,” Abbott said. “And hopefully for the residents.”
However, Abbott acknowledged that the issue needs immediate attention.
Councilor Calvin Ellis agreed.
“We have become keenly aware [of the situation],” Ellis said. “It obviously needs attention. We’re waiting for August and then we will consult with legal counsel. My expectation is the council is going to be serious in taking every step to mitigate these problems and certainly an abandoned building needs to be moved.”
Monahan said the licensing on the trailer park is up in November but the council is pre-empting the expiration by taking action by way of the building official now.
“There are serious health and safety issues,” DiGregorio said.
Councilor Raymond Morrissey added: “The bottom line is someone has to be accountable.”
For the rest of this story and more local news, pick up the July 18, 2013 issue of the Standard Times.