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Mobile home park could be an asset to Abbotsford – developer

By NEIL CORBETT
March 20, 2012 · 10:22 AM
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The Garden Village retirement mobile home park is nearing the end of its life in its present use, but the property could be a great asset to the city, says  owner and high-profile local developer Karen Matty.

In the March 8 edition of The News residents of Garden Village related how they will have to eventually move from their homes to make way for a new development.

Matty is the owner of the 13-acre site on McCallum Road, near the Trans-Canada Highway.

Reached on vacation in Mexico, Matty said there are no firm plans to re-develop the mobile home park lands, but added commercial retail would be a successful use of the property.

She said the mobile home park is aged and the infrastructure would need to be rebuilt for the site to continue in its present use. A water main must be replaced but there are 23 trailers situated on top of it – under planning allowed 55 years ago – so the city will not do the work, she said.

Matty said if her company undertook necessary upgrades, it would have to raise pad rental rates to pay for the work, but in any case, the infrastructure and the trailers themselves are too old to make upgrading viable.

The landlord has been telling tenants for more than two years that they must plan to leave. They will ultimately be served notice, and at that time will be able to choose either two years of free pad rent, or cash in lieu – approximately $10,000 to $12,000 for most of the tenants. Already, about one-third of the residents have left, said Matty, and nobody is being evicted.

One residents expressed concerns she was granted federal funds to upgrade her trailer, and it would have to be repaid if she leaves within five years.

Matty said she knows of two such situations in the park, and has offered to repay the grants for the owners.

Matty said the trailer court was originally built in a rural situation, but the city has grown up around it. A trailer court is no longer what a municipal planner would consider a good use of the site. As a commercial development it would become a valuable property, and give a much-needed boost to the city’s tax base, she said. It would also create more jobs.

Abbotsford city councillor John Smith said he and Matty work together on the city’s affordable housing committee, and Matty donated $500,000 in seed money to start an affordable housing fund for the committee to administer.

“That’s who she is,” said Smith. “She’s as decent as they come.”

Matty also donated $100,000 to the Abbotsford Salvation Army, as her personal contribution to fighting the city’s homeless problem. Both donations were made approximately five years ago.

Matty serves the community on the police board, and has sat on the Abbotsford Foundation, airport authority and board of governors for the University of the Fraser Valley. She was named to the Order of Abbotsford in 2011.

Projects Matty has recently completed include the Gateway at 2051 McCallum Road, and the property that is the home of the new Cactus Club at 34650 Delair Rd.

There is no timeline to develop the site.