Miami Shores

El Portal residents sue to stop demolition of Little Farm trailer park

The Little Farm trailer park in El Portal has been sold, but residents have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the demolition of the 15-acre mobile home.

The property, at 8500 Biscayne Blvd., was sold in February. Biscayne Park Acquisition Group, an affiliate to New York-based Madison Reality Capital, sold the property for $14 million to Coral Gables-based Wealthy Delight, managed by Leo Wu.

But now three elderly residents — Barbara Falkinburg, 80, Maria Palacio, 60, and Marie Baptiste, 67, — lodged a complaint on April 17 against the property’s previous and current owners, El Portal and Fullview International Group, LLC.

The lawsuit alleges that the village unlawfully forgave more than $8 million in liens accrued by Biscayne Park Acquisition Group, LLC, in exchange for assurances that the new owner would close down the mobile home park. The complaint further states that the move would leave an estimated 1,000 residents homeless.

Evian L. White, an attorney with Legal Services of Greater Miami, represents the three residents pro bono.

“These are three elderly women who live in a park who have nowhere else to go,” she said. “They obviously are concerned about the park closing and they want to know their rights.”

White said the village violated a state law.

“There is a state law, where there is a whole part of the law that deals with mobile home parks,” she said. “That particular role, which prohibits government action to close or relocate mobile home park residents without determining adequate alternative housing, exist. The village of El Portal did not do that.”

Alejandro E. Jordan, general counsel and real estate advisor to Wealthy Delights, LLC, said it is too soon to comment on the issue.

“As a matter of firm’s policy, unfortunately we cannot comment on ongoing litigation,” he wrote in an email.

El Portal had placed liens on the property for electrical plumbing and environmental and unsafe structure issues exceeding millions of dollars in unpaid code violations dating back to 2006. The new owners and El Portal settled for $575,000, said village Mayor Claudia Cubillos.

Currently, the park has approximately 165 trailers, according to village manager Jason Walker.

Cubillos added that the purchase and transitioning of the location is being processed, but nothing is confirmed. She also said that the village hired an urban planning company to assist in El Portal’s vision for the area. The village and residents worked together on a charrette where everyone shared their vision for El Portal.

“That was the intent for new developers to understand that the code is in place and protects the village,” she said. “So we wouldn’t have a big conglomerate of a store or business come in and be that what the village and residents didn’t want.”

She added that the charrette’s goal for the area is to create “modern zoning in hopes to create proper growth.”

“Our goal is to preserve who we are as a village,” she said.

The vision is for the area to be zoned as mixed use where town homes, apartments, retail space, and greenery could one day be placed, she added.

Developers have until February to get the area ready for redevelopment. Cubillos said El Portal wants the best outcome for the residents currently living in the trailer park.

“This is an exciting time for El Portal, but there is nothing more important to us as a council and manager to ensure, when the time comes that these residents have to leave, that they are given the proper time, assistance and that it is done in the right way because they have been residents of El Portal,” she said.

Walker said: “There is a state statute that governs how the relocation process will proceed,” he wrote in an email. “In addition, we are in the process of forming a team that will assist residents with relocation services.”