When Bonnie Benamar wakes up in her 400-square-foot mobile home at Lago Palma, a 200-home senior community on Lake Worth Road, she said she’s surrounded by embarrassing — and potentially deadly — eyesores.
“I’m ashamed,” said Benamar, 63, tears welling up in her eyes. “I don’t want my friends and family coming here.”
Since late June, Benamar, a former art dealer now on disability, said about 20 older mobile homes have been brought in by the community’s new owner, Lakeshore Management, to fill vacant lots.
The problem, residents say, is many of those homes, bought from an Indian reservation in Broward County, are in poor condition, with broken windows, termites, no siding, unstable floors and holes in the framing. Many of the homes sit precariously on cinderblocks.
Not only do the homes, which Benamar said are attracting roaches and bugs, downgrade this once pristine community, but residents fear they will lower property values and pose a safety hazard in the height of hurricane season.
“If a hurricane were to hit and the wind got up under those mobile homes, imagine what would happen,” said Benamar, who bought her home three months ago for $3,000. “It’s a major concern.”
About a week ago, Palm Beach County’s Code Enforcement Division red-tagged about 15 homes, but Benamar said the community’s head of maintenance ripped them off.
An employee at Lago Palma’s office declined to answer questions, saying she would call security if The Palm Beach Post didn’t leave the premises.
About 50 residents met with Lakeshore Management representatives two weeks ago at the park’s clubhouse to air their gripes, but Benamar said the meeting wasn’t productive.
“They treated us like we were second-class citizens and that our questions weren’t really important to them,” Benamar said.
Another resident, who declined to give his name, said he left the meeting equally frustrated.
“I just think they’re really going to downgrade the park,” said the resident, who has lived in the community for eight years. “This may not be a 55 and over community for long. They just want the money and don’t care about anything else.”
Benamar said Lakeshore Management, based in Skokie, Il., gave no indication how long it would take to repair the homes. “They said the homes would eventually be restored, but they couldn’t give us any dates,” Benamar said.
At the meeting, residents were told Lakeshore Management plans to raise the rent, install water meters and require all residents to trim tree branches beside their homes before a hurricane, a chore previously handled by management.
Joseph Wolf, president of Lakeshore Management, didn’t return several calls seeking comment.
Lago Palma, formerly called Mas Verde Mobile Home Estates, was bought by Lakeshore Management for $13.5 million in late June, property records show. But residents say they still haven’t received anything in writing notifying them of the sale.
Lakeshore Management employed a similar practice of bringing in rundown homes after it took over A Garden Walk, a mobile home community in Palm Beach Gardens.
Jamie Garry, a Lago Palma resident for six years, said he expects Lakeshore Management to fix the homes cosmetically, open up the park to all ages, then let it deteriorate.
“If I were them, that’s what I’d do,” Garry said.
That’s not what Benamar, who lives with her two dogs, an 8-year-old cocker spaniel named Betty Lou and Bouvier, a 2-year-old cavalier yorkie, wants to hear.
“This was a very nice park when I moved in,” Benamar said softly. “Now, look at it. But I have no options. I can’t afford to move.”