The Village of El Portal violated a state law when it failed to study whether adequate housing was available for residents of a mobile home park it plans to shut down.
In an opinion from the state Third District Court of Appeal, the court found that the village took official action to close the Little Farm mobile home park when it approved a settlement agreement with the property’ owner, Wealthy Delight LLC.
The agreement, which included a payment of $575,000 to settle existing code enforcement violations, calls for the park’s closure. The residents at the 15-acre site have been given a February deadline to move out.
According to the opinion issued Wednesday (Jan. 13), the village “admitted that no prior analysis of the relocation issue had been done, as no relocation study was conducted.”
The Village of El Portal did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Howard Kuker, an attorney for Wealthy Delight, said the appeals court opinion does not change anything for his client. He said the plan to have all the remaining mobile park tenants out by the end of February remains the same.
"As far as I'm concerned, my client did nothing wrong," he said. "If the village did something wrong, that's the village."
Evian White, an attorney with Legal Services of Greater Miami, filed a lawsuit challenging the settlement last year. White, who represents some of the residents at Little Farm, alleged the village was not complying with state law.
When that case was dismissed, she appealed.
The higher court ruled that the lower court “erred in dismissing the pending complaint.”
In it’s opinion, the appeals court wrote that before taking any action that would lead to the removal or relocation of the mobile home residents the village was required to conduct a housing analysis, according to state law.
The case will return to the lower court if El Portal does not appeal within 30 days.
White said it is not yet clear how this ruling will affect the February deadline for residents to move out or if it will halt the planned demolition.