Anti-co-op forces in Briarcrest want to be part of process, hire lawyer

LACONIA — Nearly a dozen residents of Briarcrest Estates, who are opposed to the Lakemont Cooperative purchasing the manufactured housing park on behalf of the tenants, are taking steps to form an organization and intervene in litigation.

Claiming to represent nearly 80 percent of the residents of the park, the group expects to incorporate as the Briarcrest Estates Home Owners Association before the week is out and has retained local attorney Phil McLaughlin to represent the organization in litigation pending in Belknap County Superior Court.

In July, Mark and Ruth Mooney, the owners of the park, tentatively accepted an offer from Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC of Orlando, Florida, an affiliate of Hometown America, Inc., among the largest owners of manufactured parks in the country, to purchase the 183-acre park with 241 home sites for $10 million. However, state law entitles the tenants to make a counter offer by presenting a purchase and sales agreement within 60 days of the first offer. Lakemont Cooperative has matched the $10 million offer and is seeking to arrange financing.

Meanwhile, the Mooneys petitioned the Belknap County Superior Court to approve the sale of the park to Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC. Attorney John Giere, representing the Mooneys, contends that since the law is intended to safeguard the interests of tenants of the park, most of whom oppose cooperative ownership, approving the transaction would serve the best interests of the residents in keeping wit the intent of the law.

Attorney Robert Shepherd of Nashua is preparing a response on behalf of the Lakemont Cooperative.

McLaughlin said that the statute was written to provide for cooperative ownership, but failed to anticipate the situation that has arisen at Briarcrest Estate, where a majority prefers for the park to remain in commercial ownership. "The statute fails to provide for dissent," he said. He explained that while the Mooneys and the Lakemont Cooperative are parties to the litigation before the court, the majority of residents are without a voice. McLaughlin said that he is in the process of preparing the case and expects to petition the court to permit the Briarcrest Estates Home Owners Association to intervene soon.