By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Members of a residents' cooperative that owns Briarcrest Estates, a bucolic, 230-acre manufactured housing park, have decided not to pursue a potential sale of the property to the Hometown America Corporation.
The 121-31 vote Monday night to maintain the status quo at the park comes after weeks of conflict between two factions within Lakemont Cooperative. One contends management of the park would improve under corporate ownership. The other asserts that residents' interests and pocketbooks are best protected by the cooperative.
Members of the community reported angry phone calls and arguments among neighbors. There was even a report of a physical confrontation between two neighbors in the mail room. Members of the cooperative board who suggested investigating a possible change of ownership resigned after coming under sharp criticism.
Louise Rosand, a resident in favor of continued ownership by the cooperative, hopes the decisive vote puts an end to the conflict.
“It was a very nice ending to a nasty story,” she said. “Everyone cheered except for 31 people.”
She said she never understood the rationale for selling the property.
“They're essentially wrong,” Rosand said. “It is managed well, financially stable, the banks love us.”
She also said the grounds are well maintained.
City Council Brenda Baer, a Briarcrest resident, has been in favor of a sale and was disappointed at the outcome of the vote.
“I've lived here for 21 years, 19 under private ownership,” she said. “The present ownership has not been a very good experience. There's been a lot of division. They depend on voluntary services to run the place. This is a $10 million to $12 million business, and I don't think you should run it with volunteers.”
Hometown America Corporation offered to retire the outstanding balances on an $8 million loan from TD Bank and a $2 million loan from the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund as well as pay the prepayment penalty for the loan, closing costs and real estate transfer taxes.
Tara Reardon, director of ROC-NH, a program of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, said there are 121 resident-owned communities in New Hampshire and none have entertained an offer to sell their parks.
“We think that's for obvious reasons,” she said. “Rents are lower in a not-for-profit community than under ownership by a for-profit corporation.”
Mark and Ruth Mooney opened Briarcrest Estates in 1988. Its land covers an area in Laconia and Belmont.
The cooperative matched an offer from Hometown America to purchase the park from the Mooneys for $10 million in 2014.
- Written by Rick Green
- Category: Local News
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