The owner of a Gordon Highway mobile home park where an infant was found dead last month has been given 30 days to address immediate dangers and submit a plan to bring his property up to minimum standards, according to documents obtained by The Augusta Chronicle.
Augusta code enforcement inspectors have cited Pine View mobile home park for an array of violations from faulty wiring and shoddy maintenance to rodent infestations and open sewage lines.
Several of the trailers have been condemned as unfit for habitation until the owner makes repairs, said Shawn Hargis Rhodes, the code enforcement inspector.
More than 30 letters citing more than 130 individual code violations were sent to the owner, Florence S. Waterman Trust, of Los Angeles. In addition, one local owner was cited and ordered to vacate her trailer until repairs could be made, Rhodes said.
Rhodes said Waterman might be the name on the documents, but the actual owner of Pine View is Wolf Baschung, the president of another California company, M.W. Real Estate Group, which manages the property. A message left for Baschung was not returned Thursday.
The violations stem from a sweep made by code enforcement, sheriff’s deputies and health officials in May after an infant was found dead in a trailer in April. Police said the 5-month-old’s body was covered in insect and rodent bites.
Until recently, officials said the owner has been unresponsive to their requests to address problems. Rhodes said the local property manager is working to address the most pressing maintenance problems.
“It’s lack of management,” said Rhodes. “They don’t know what is going on with their trailers.”
Violet Sizemore, a former manager at Pine View and a resident there for 28 years, said Baschung has paid little attention to the park since he took over in 2006. She said the park grounds and trailers have continued to deteriorate to its current state of rows of broken windows, collapsing porches and knee-high weeds.
“Wolf isn’t a good manager,” Sizemore said. “He doesn’t want to spend any money.”
Sizemore said that a large number of trailers located in a low-lying area across Wylds Road, known in the park as “the bottom,” are all vacant. She said that few of the trailers around her home display a current sticker indicating the owner has paid taxes for the current year. She said it is just another symptom of neglect.
“I own my trailer and I paid my taxes,” she said.
On most trailers in Pine View, the most recent property tax sticker was from 2009. The park owner owes more than $19,000 in back property and real estate taxes, according to the Richmond County Tax Commissioner’s Office.
Code enforcement and police say the park has had a growing number of code violations and reports of crime since 2006.
The sheriff’s office has been dispatched to the property at least 20 times this year and 50 times in 2011. On one occasion, sheriff’s investigators found a home with an active methamphetamine lab. That trailer was condemned, Rhodes said.
Although code enforcement and police respond to individual complaints, trailers aren’t usually inspected unless one is being moved, she said. Tenants do have the right to request an inspection, however, but most are unaware of that.
“When you are dealing with the least fortunate, they don’t know that we can do an inspection on their property,” she said.
Code enforcement officials met with an attorney representing Baschung last week to go over the problems at Pine View. The owner was given 30 days to come up with a plan to bring the property up to minimum standards. Issues that present an immediate hazard to public health will have to be corrected within that 30-day period, Rhodes said. Other maintenance issues will be addressed according to a plan that must be approved by code enforcement officials, the inspector said.
Failure to meet the standards or to comply with the plan will mean the trailers will be shuttered, Rhodes said.
“We don’t want 120 trailers sitting vacant,” Rhodes said. “But it has to meet minimum standards and it has to meet safety requirements.”