Owners of Leisure Woods Estates mobile home park in Orange propose 43% rent hike, riling residents

The owners of Leisure Woods Estates in Orange have proposed raising monthly lot fees by 43%.

The owners of Leisure Woods Estates in Orange have proposed raising monthly lot fees by 43%. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

The owners of Leisure Woods Estates in Orange have proposed raising monthly lot fees by 43%.

The owners of Leisure Woods Estates in Orange have proposed raising monthly lot fees by 43%. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Mona and Rick Riberdy, who have lived in Leisure Woods Estates for 10 years, say they worry the proposed 43% monthly lot fee increase will force some of their neighbors to move.

Mona and Rick Riberdy, who have lived in Leisure Woods Estates for 10 years, say they worry the proposed 43% monthly lot fee increase will force some of their neighbors to move. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Mona and Rick Riberdy, who have lived in Leisure Woods Estates for 10 years, say they worry the proposed 43% monthly lot fee increase will force some of their neighbors to move.

Mona and Rick Riberdy, who have lived in Leisure Woods Estates for 10 years, say they worry the proposed 43% monthly lot fee increase will force some of their neighbors to move. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Joe Fanelli, 74, who has lived in Leisure Woods Estates in Orange for six years, talks about the proposed 43% monthly lot fee increase.

Joe Fanelli, 74, who has lived in Leisure Woods Estates in Orange for six years, talks about the proposed 43% monthly lot fee increase. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 07-07-2024 5:00 PM

ORANGE — The owners of Leisure Woods Estates have proposed raising monthly lot fees by 43% and residents of the town’s only rent-controlled mobile home park worry about the financial strain it could put on them.

Glenn Gidley, the principal owner of Leisure Woods Estates Inc., and his son Adam have petitioned the town’s Mobile Rent Control Board to be allowed to charge tenants $588 per month to account for the economic climate and inflation. John Kuzinevich, the Gidleys’ attorney, wrote in a letter to the board that his clients need to recoup $40,650 spent on inspections and increased professional fees that are mandated by the Orange Board of Health. In addition, the town has increased the park’s assessed valuation.

“My client feels it’s more than reasonable,” Kuzinevich said in an interview. “The issue is that for years the rent has been severely below market and a consequence is a rent increase of … about 40%. It is a large increase that’s being sought, but that’s because ... the owner is entitled to reasonable rate of return.”

Kuzinevich said the Gidleys last year had a $16,000 return for the entire 72-acre park at 519 East River St., which Leisure Woods Estates purchased on Dec. 1, 1977. He said 147 of the facility’s 153 sites are occupied.

The monthly fees cover the right to have a modular home on a plot of land. Checks are made out to Leisure Woods Estates but sent to Salem Manufactured Homes, which Glenn Gidley runs in Salem, New Hampshire. Residents then separately pay a mortgage broker for their home.

The town’s Mobile Rent Control Board held a meeting on June 11 to allow residents an opportunity to have their voices heard on the proposal. The meeting was continued until July 16 and will be held in Orange Town Hall’s Ruth B. Smith Auditorium. Jane Peirce, who chairs the three-member board, said some of the residents who attended the meeting said they would become homeless if the fees were increased by 43%.

“That’s pretty scary,” she said.

Peirce mentioned she is confident the board can settle on a fee amount that is fair.

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“Obviously [the Gidleys] are asking more than the residents want to give them and it’s up to us to decide what’s reasonable,” she said. “We have to find something in the middle.”

The Mobile Rent Control Board’s other two members are Andrew Smith and Julie Davis who, like Peirce, are also on the Selectboard.

Mona and Rick Riberdy, who have lived in the park since 2014, said the monthly fee was raised to $410 about 16 months ago after having remained unchanged for 10 years. Both said they understand the need to make a profit, but worry the increase will force some to leave the park.

“We wouldn’t have to leave, but we would have to do some serious cutting,” Mona Riberdy said. “We’d be pinched because the economy is so bad.”

She and her husband say they are more concerned about the park’s low-income residents and those living on a fixed income and struggling with inflation. They also said the park owners are absent and detached from the property and its residents.

“There’s no love loss, obviously, between the Gidley family and here,” Mona Riberty said.

Likewise, Joe Fanelli said it is unfair that the fee will increase without any additional amenities.

“They don’t spend any money in here. There’s no facilities, all that, which doesn’t bother anybody — kept the rent low,” he said. “And then they come out with $100-plus increases and, I mean, come on, it’s not our fault you guys sat on it for 10 years.”

He suspects the owners are trying to make up for time lost over the past 10 years. He believes residents are in for a substantial fee hike.

“Right now, I think we’re going to get hit with a pretty good amount,” he said.

Fanelli, 74, moved to Leisure Woods Estates six years ago and said he is there to stay.

“I really don’t have much choice,” he said. “I’m retired. I have Social Security and I have no pension from anything. So I’m skating on thin ice, you know?”

One 76-year-old woman who asked not to be identified out of fear of retribution said she plans to attend the July 16 continuation and is confident the fee will not be increased the entire proposed 43%. She said she moved to Leisure Woods Estates in the fall of 2019 and enjoys it, describing it as its own neighborhood.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or
413-930-4120.