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The City Journals

Residents of Applewood Mobile Estates celebrate victory over "Goliath"

May 15, 2018 12:32PM ● By Ruth Hendricks

Members of the Applewood cooperative celebrate ownership of their property. (Ruth Hendricks/City Journals)

By Ruth Hendricks | [email protected]

The 56 homeowners involved in a local David-and-Goliath story recently celebrated their victory.

On Friday, May 4, the residents of Applewood Mobile Estates, located at 150 West 7500 South, held a dinner at the Midvale Senior Center.

Merridy Bagley and the Applewood social committee worked hard to make arrangements and put up decorations for the celebration party. Over a dinner catered by the Midvale Mining Café and a cake donated by Larene Butler, they celebrated the culmination of a major effort to buy the land under their homes.

“We’re the boss now,” said Shirlene Stoven who led the project. “We don’t have to worry about being evicted. Our payments won’t increase. It’s such a relief.”

The park is now a resident-owned community (ROC), which is a neighborhood of manufactured homes owned by a cooperative of homeowners as opposed to an outside landlord.

“It took a lot of tears and a lot of sleepless nights, but a lot of help from a lot of people,” Stoven said. This included the Midvale City Council; city planning; Olene Walker’s housing loan fund; ROCusa, a national non-profit group and UROC, the Utah branch of the national group.

“Now we can go to bed and have a good night’s rest,” said Stoven. “We beat them. We won. It’s been a miracle, and I want to say thanks to everybody.”

The dilemma faced by the residents was the likelihood that the land owners would sell to developers who could raise the rent so high that the mostly senior residents couldn’t afford it and would be forced out. The land is close to a TRAX station, which makes it attractive for developers to build higher density housing.

The Applewood residents’ fight for their community began back in 2014 when the land was bought by Ivory Homes, with a plan to build a three-story, 186-unit apartment complex. Stoven helped to gather 2,600 signatures on a petition to stop this action. She also helped form a homeowner’s association and has served as its president.

When Ivory Homes was unable to develop the land, they sold it to Nate Brockbank and Paul Shupe. These new owners met with the residents and listened to them. They agreed to let the residents try to buy the land for $5 million.

Many people told Stoven she could never raise that much money. However, she took that as a challenge and is happy to prove those people wrong.

At the party, Stoven recognized former mayor JoAnn Seghini who attended, saying, “She has been a big help to get us to this point.”

Seghini joined Stoven to congratulate the group. Seghini said, “I really think what you all did individually, all the people that donated money, you all did it with heart. You all did it because you care about people. I want to congratulate every single one of you for making this happen.”

Later Stoven said, “I especially want to thank the current owners Nate and Paul for allowing us to opportunity to buy the land.” Stoven recognized that these men could have made more money by selling to other developers. “They saw our plight. They made a personal decision rather than a business decision.”

Stoven said that Mayor Robert Hale told her that what they accomplished was a miracle. He asked her to document her efforts because this was a huge accomplishment and part of history for Midvale.

The Applewood cooperative received $100,000 from Midvale City and $1 million from the Olene Walker Housing Fund, which is a loan fund supporting quality affordable housing options for low-income persons. Donations were also raised through a GoFundMe website, and ROCusa provided some of the funding.

The deal was targeted to close in early December, but more time was needed to get the agreement approved by all the parties. Each separate organization had an attorney, and the Applewood cooperative had their own attorney who coordinated everything. “It took a lot of effort from lots of people to iron out all the kinks,” said Stoven. They were was able to get the deadline extended.

The papers were signed on February 9 to purchase the property.

Stoven wants to let other Davids know that they too can face their Goliaths. She said earlier, “When we buy this land, it will be a huge success story for other mobile park residents to see that it can be done. You just need to work hard and never give up.”