*~* ABOUT US *~*
Tucked away in a corner of Olmsted Township in Northeast Ohio, is COLUMBIA PARK. Ours is a quiet community of approximately 1050 manufactured homes, in which, primarily seniors reside.
For the past 45 years, Columbia Park was owned & operated by the Brookins Family. They were thoughtful, caring owners who took great pride in the community. That changed on June 23rd of 2001 when they sold “us” to a group of New York investors.
Residents here realized there would be some changes; rents would probably be raised & there would be a reduction in services to residents because so many of the employees were “let go”. Nevertheless, we were ready to “meet & greet” the new owners with a spirit of cooperation & friendliness but unfortunately that never happened. Now we have become a “community in CRISIS”.
Why in crisis? When rents are increased by 18% to 24%, it’s a crisis. We have organized ourselves into <b>The Columbia Park Homeowners/Tenants Association</b>. With the overwhelming support of our local, county, state & federal leaders, we began a “rent strike” in September of 2001. Our “rent strike” was the largest ever held in the State of Ohio.
The rent strike resulted in a court trial which was held on January 28, 29 and 31, 2002 at the German Club on Columbia Road in Olmsted Township, Ohio. Magistrate Lazzaro ruled in favor or Management and Judge Comstock supported the opinion.
Now the participants in the rent strike had to make another decision!! To Appeal or not to appeal !!
*~* 2001 *~*
Homeowners/Tenants Association organized. Rent strike starts.
*~* 2002 *~*
March 14, 2002:
A special meeting to discuss the court’s decision and the “next step” we wished to take. Mike Foley believes we have good grounds for appeal. However, if we wish to continue our case in the Court of Appeals, each household will be asked to contribute to a legal fund. 748 Homeowners voted to APPEAL and pledged their financial support for legal fees.
March 29, 2002.
Berea Court Hearing<br>After several hours of negotiating, David Witt and Mike Foley announced that Management would drop the $25,000 lawsuits against each Homeowner and the Social Hall would be reopened (and THEY said we had no fear of retaliation) if Homeowners agreed to stop the rent strike. Witt & Foley recommended Homeowner’s accept Landowner’s offer. Homeowner’s present in the courtroom voted to follow their recommendation and the offer was accepted.
The rent strike ended but our APPEAL WENT FORWARD to the 8th District Court of Appeals.
July 2002 – Rent Increase
We are notified of a rent increase of 5% or $14.50 a month. For example: if your rent is currently $290, the new amount will be $304.50 starting in September 2002 & ending August 2003.
A sharp-eyed park homeowner saw a fine print legal notice in the Cleveland Plain Dealer stating the owners of Columbia Park had applied to the PUCO (Public Utilities Commission of Ohio) for a certificate of convenience & necessity to be recognized as a utility company.<br>
They also requested approval of a increase in water and sewer rates. Initially, their request in September 2002 was to raise water and sewer rates 300%. The request was amended in October 2002 to an increase in excess of 200% prior to publication of the legal notice.
Our Homeowners/Tenants Association began a vigorous campaign to oppose this exorbitant increase.
*~* 2003 *~*
March 13, 2003
Finally, the APPEALS COURT RULING.
The Appeals court ruled thatthe Berea Municipal court had no authority to do anything in the case but to dismiss it once it was filed, which it did not do. The landlords in an attempt to scare off the residents filed anapplication for release of the money on deposit, but also filedindividual damage claims against each rent striking household in the amount of $25,000, even though the Berea Court’s maximum monetary jurisdiction to hear a claim is $15,000.
June 11th, 2003
The Columbia Park Homeowners/Tenants Association files a lawsuit against Columbia Brook Park Management LLC, with the Court of Common Pleas.
July 2003 – Rent Increase
We are notified of a rent increase of 5% or $14.50 a month. For example: if your rent is currently $304.50, the new amount will be $319.00 starting in September 2003 & ending August 2004.
Another issue has risen. A provision denoting Columbia Park as a 55 and over community some how disappeared from our lease that was in there from past years. All residents were advised to hold off signing their leases until this can be rectified by the owners.
December 2003 – Our FIRST victory!
PUCO grants the park owners an increase of 3.3% (not the 300% they asked for) in sewer rates and zero (0%) increase in water rates. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the sharp-eyed homeowner who spotted the legal notice in November 2002. Without him, what might we be paying now for water & sewer?
*~* 2004 *~*
March 2004 – Tax Revisions
Due a change in Ohio law, all new or used manufactured homes purchased after January 1, 2000, will be taxed as real property instead of personal property. This resulted in owners of homes in the $60 – 70,000 range paying a property tax of $1400 anually.
Dustin Ramsey and his staff from the County Auditor’s office came to the Park to explain how taxes were computed and to assist Homeowners with challenging their real estate taxes. The deadline for filing a challenge is March 31st.
July 2004 – Rent Increase &Pass-thru Taxes
We are notified of a rent increase of $15.00 a month plus a monthly assessment of $5 or $6 (depending on your lot size) for the landowners tax increase. So if your rent is $319.00 the new amount will be $340.00 ($15.00 plus $6.00 = $21.00) starting in September 2004 & ending August 2005.
September 2004 – Revision of Tax Applications
The 37 homeowners who applied for a tax revision were called to a special meeting and instructed on the method to use to deduct the cost of homesite improvements from the price of their homes that had originally been reported to the Auditor’s office as taxable. The new figure was then submitted as the true value of the home that should be taxed.
Mike Foley suggested several months ago that the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) might be willing to help us with eminent domain. An official appeal was presented to them and today (10/08/04) an article was published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer announcing that it was illegal for a government agency to take property by eminent domain and then hand it over to a private association. Their decision is not a big surprise but their method for announcing the decision certainly is. Not fun to read the details in the newspaper.
*~* 2005 *~*
January 2005 – Tax Revisions – Our SECOND Victory
Tax bills have arrived with significantly reduced amounts. Example: A homeowner that previously payed $702.00 a half would now pay $313.00 a half as a result of the filing for a tax revision.
In 2005, 115 more homeowners have applied for a revision of their taxes. Their new tax assessment won’t take affect until 2006 but it will be well worth the wait!
July 2005 – Rent Increase
We are notified of a rent increase of $15.00 a month. So if your rent is $340.00 the new amount will be $355.00 starting in September 2005 & ending August 2006. You will now pay $4260 a year to live in Columbia Park. At the present rate, manufactured housing in Columbia Park no longer is an affordable housing choice for Seniors.
*~* 2006 *~*
July 2006 – Rent Increase
Soon we will receive our 06-07 rent increase lease. Rumor has it, it will be 5% again. Well, the rumor was accurate! If your rent was 340.00 it increases to $370.00 from the original $245.00. It will cost $4,440.00 to live here this year.
August 2006 – Park Owner’s WIN Court Case>
Three years ago, we filed our case in Common Pleas Court based on the unconscionable rent increase in 2001. It’s taken 3 years for Judge Janet Burnside to decide in favor of THE OWNERS.
*~* 2007 *~*
January 2007 – Owners Settlement Offer
Offer made by Mr. Ken Burnham representing Columbia Brook Park Management, LLC.
“We would be willing to do the following in order to settle matters with the CP H/TA right now.
1. Commit to installing a paved walking path (6′) on the old trolley road bed for the use of residents.
2. Repave the parking area around the Social Hall.
3. Renovate the old trolley depot building for use as pool room or place for smaller gatherings.”
The Executive Board voted 10-0 to reject the offer.