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Date of Issue: April 30, 2008

Cortez trailer park sale 'done deal'

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Cortez Trailer Park owner Harry Howey Sr. with daughter Kathie Howey Harris addresses the residents about their co-op venture, "It's about preserving for the future." A small group of residents celebrated the almost-done deal to buy the park Saturday. Islander Photo: Edna Tiemann

After tense day-and-night negotiations over the weekend, the residents of the Cortez Trailer Park have all but closed their purchase of the 50-year-old village landmark.

Park owner Harry “Butch” Howey and Doug Morgan, chairman of the residents’ purchasing committee, said they met last Friday night and then conferred again over the weekend and have “a firm handshake” deal. What remain are details, which they and their lawyers will work out this week.

“The check is not there yet, granted, but we’ve all agreed on it,” said Howey.

“It’s a go,” said Morgan, “we’re confident it’s settled.”

For some time now, the deal has been caught in a “Catch 22” situation, Howey said: The buyers had to buy it through a cooperative, but couldn’t form a co-op until they bought the property. 

They finally worked through it, and now can meet the $2.7 million down payment on the total price of $9.5 million. That is substantially less than the price of $14.75 million set in 2005, below even the $10.8 million an outside buyer offered 14 months ago and the price where negotiating began when residents exercised their state-mandated first right of refusal.

The property is five acres on 620 feet of prime waterfront adjacent to the south side of the Cortez Bridge’s mainland ramp. It has 79 permanent homes and eight recreation vehicle sites, along with a marina and several small buildings.

It has been in the Howey family since 1959, and Harry Sr. sold it to son Butch in 1988. Both Howeys still make their homes there.

Butch Howey will finance the deal, holding the first mortgage on the park.

As they approached the showdown date late last week, Morgan said he had 34 firm commitments from residents who wanted to go for the purchase, putting their cash into a co-op to get it done and own the property, and needed only three or four more to put it over. Funding their shares was the main problem, he said, for “banks are tougher now in this economic climate.”

“People are making the choice, either they want to live here or they don’t,” he said earlier. “This is a marvelous bit of Old Florida, this park, and people are protecting their lifestyle by buying it.”

Some residents have been there for decades. One 80-year-old woman has lived there for 40 years, another is 100 years old, and quite a few are in their 80s. “To think of it all going away would be hard to face,” Butch Howey said.

The park is within the designated overlay area for the Cortez historic district, with certain guidelines and rules that govern changes and future development.