Emotions ran high as Summerside City Council discussed the future of Heritage Trailer Park, Monday night.
The trailer park, which is off Water Street East, is slated for closure and residents have been given six months, until Nov. 30, to have their homes moved.
By the end of Monday’s regular council meeting two motions had been passed, one to officially request the park’s owner, Steve Malayny, extend by an additional six months the deadline for residents to move and a second to seek an independent appraisal of the value of the trailer park.
That second motion came as a result of an amendment Coun. Brent Gallant, seconded by Coun. Gordie Whitlock, tried to make to the first motion to extend the deadline.
Gallant’s amendment would have moved the city towards buying the trailer park, either through amical negotiations with the owner or through expropriation if necessary.
“The city has to protect the residents,” said Gallant after the meeting.
“The residents of this trailer park are going to lose their homes, without compensation or consideration. They’ll be on the street, homeless and any equity or value in their homes will be lost.”
Some of the trailers in the park cannot be moved, those that can be are finding waiting lists to get into the city’s other trailer parks and some owners cannot afford to move their homes even if they could find someplace to relocate it to. Read more about the situation here: "Heritage Park residents angered by closure of mobile home park."
A few of the park residents attended the meeting, including Morgan Gaudet. She purchased her home in the park only a few months before receiving her notice to relocate.
At this point the city acquiring the trailer park from Malayny is her only hope to stay in her home, she said.
“If that happens – it’s a miracle. But of course the chances of that happening are very slim.”
Gallant’s amendment was eventually voted down 6-2. However, some of the councillors who voted against it actually voiced their support for the substance of what Gallant and Whitlock were trying to do, but they had concerns about how they went about it.
After the present council was elected its members agreed to give each other at least 48 hour notice of any motions they intended to bring forward at official meetings. That way, they could properly prepare themselves for the discussion and not be caught unaware or absent on important decisions.
It’s an arrangement council has, for the most part, stuck with for almost four years. But in this case, some councillors only found out about Gallant and Whitlocks’ intention a few hours before the meeting.
Coun. Tyler Desroches voiced his support for their ammendment, though he ultimately voted against it. He said he could not vote for it without knowing how much it would cost taxpayers.
“If I was to run into someone on the street and they said ‘oh, you’re doing that, how much is it costing you?’ I wouldn’t be able to look them in the eye and say ‘I don’t know.’”
The meeting also featured the unusual move by Mayor Bill Martin who temporarily yielded the chairmanship of the meeting to Deputy Mayor Frank Costa (the men switched seats) so Martin could voice his thoughts on how the discussion was playing out.
As mayor, Martin acts as the chairman of council meetings and is the arbiter of whatever discussion is ongoing. He is not allowed to vote on motions unless it is to break a tie and he is technically not supposed to voice his own opinions on matters under debate. However, he can do so under certain circumstances and temporarily relinquishing control of the meeting to the deputy mayor is one of them.
In this case, Martin, like Desroches and the other councillors, expressed displeasure at having the idea of buying the trailer park sprung on council at the last minute.
Gallant acknowledged that the amendment was outside the normal rules, but he urged his fellow councillors not to get hung up on procedure in this case.
“I’ve served this council for 20 years and I have followed the rules. But when it comes down to situations that warrant stepping outside the norm – then I’ll step outside what is the norm. I encourage council to make the right decision and look after the people,” said Gallant.
After the amendment was defeated Gallant and Whitlock said they would be bringing it back as a motion at the next committee of council meeting. It is unclear if council will have access to the independently appraised value of the park by then.