The residents of the Eastwood Mobile Home Park in Whitehall, Ohio are going to have to find a new place to live by August. The trailer park became more valuable to developers when it was announced that Wal-Mart was going to build across the street. 33 families have been notified that they have to move. Many of the residents are senior citizens. “We’re being uprooted,” one neighbor said. “When we moved here, we thought this was it. I can’t believe this is happening.” The park owner has agreed to sell the land to a developer, Plaza Properties, for a retail center. The landowner claims that Whitehall officials lobbied him to close the park. “Whitehall put pressure on us. They don’t want a mobile park, and all of a sudden, everybody wants to be across the street from Wal-Mart.” Whitehall Mayor Lynn Ochsendort denies city action has led to the displacement of 33 families, saying the land sale was a “private business deal.” The trailer park has been open since 1941. The trailer owners are likely to have trouble finding a new place to move their homes, and some homes are not in good enough condition to transport. “They’re making us leave so they can make money,” another neighbor said. “I thought Wal-Mart would be good if I’m going to be here.” “For it to end like this is sad to me,” the park owner said. “Whitehall really needs this development, obviously, but some people are hurting in the process.”
Now there’s a hard-working city government for you! They dislocate these families for a mall. The idea of local governments forcing people from their homes to make way for more retail space is a case of jumbled priorities. This case, and the horrendous situation in Maplewood, Missouri (search in Newsflash) are reminders that retail development has the potential to make people homeless — just to build another superstore where none is needed. City officials were willing to hurt their own citizens on the chance that they might see a net revenue gain. This is a form of civic gambling, and the officials responsible for this mess should be relocated by the voters at the next possible opportunity.