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Date of Issue: February 15, 2007

Cortez Trailer Park has purchase offer

He has received an offer of $10.8 million for the Cortez Trailer Park, the owner has advised occupants, and if they can match it they are welcome to buy.

No way, said the president of the homeowners association. There is no possibility they can raise that kind of money, for most of them are retired or are part-time residents who winter here and summer "up north."

Owner Harry "Butch" Howey told the residents by letter last week that he had received the offer. The occupants have the first right of refusal, that is, under state law they are first in line if they can match a purchase offer.

Bob Coulter, president of the owners association, said his group surveyed residents a year ago when there was talk of selling the park, and the result was two to one against buying themselves.

The question was, "Would you pay $100,000 to $120,000 for the land your unit occupies?" A resounding no was heard at the time, he said, and he is sure it wouldn't change now. "Even if we could afford it."

There are 79 permanent mobile homes there and eight recreation vehicle sites. Occupants own their residences and rent the land they occupy. Working the numbers, Coulter figures anyone who pays the price offered for the facility would have to collect rent for 26 years just to cover the purchase price, not counting taxes and other expenses.

"At that rate, it wouldn't work to continue running a trailer park here," he said. "So the buyer would have to have some other use in mind." The offer allows 180 days to do the usual "due diligence" before it's accepted.

"That gives time to find out whether the land can be rezoned for some other use," Coulter noted. It is within the overlay that designates much of Cortez as a historic district, with very stringent rules about anything built there.

The property is about five acres of land with 620 feet or so of waterfront. There is a marina there, too, owned by Howey. It is adjacent to the east ramp of the Cortez Bridge.

It has been owned and operated as a trailer park by the Howey family since 1959. Butch Howey bought it from his parents in 1988, but has been associated with its operation almost all of his life. He refused to comment on an offer or sale.

Coulter said some residents have been there almost as long: One 80-year-old woman has lived there for 40 years, another is 100 years old, and just the other day the residents gave an 80th birthday party for a resident. "We have a birthday party every year for 80-year-olds," he said.

"This is a marvelous bit of old Florida," he said. "To think of it all going away is hard to face."