Could a park replace Fox Point mobile homes in Wheeling?
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Wheeling has removed all residences from the flood-prone Fox Point mobile home park, clearing way for a potential park on the property near the Des Plaines River.
The village is starting the final phase of transforming the former 42-unit mobile home park in the 500 block of South Milwaukee Avenue into a public space.
"After several years of uncertainty, the Fox Point families are finally able to move forward with the security of permanent housing free from the fear of repetitive flood loss," Village President Pat Horcher said in a news release this week.
The effort to demolish the mobile homes and relocate families to different housing has lasted five years. In April 2013, floods damaged many homes and left others uninhabitable. Citing building code violations and unsafe living conditions, the village sought to close the mobile home park.
That prompted dozens of residents to join a federal lawsuit accusing the village of enforcing its building codes in a discriminatory manner because most of the community's residents were Hispanic, a claim Wheeling officials denied.
The village eventually settled the lawsuit with an agreement to spend $4 million in federal grant money to relocate residents, purchase the land and keep it as an open space. In February 2017, the village acquired Fox Point and issued a one-year notice of the final closure.
However, another round of heavy rains in July caused major flooding at the mobile home park, and the remaining families had to move out. Using grant money, the village has provided temporary housing for those families while securing relocation benefit packages for permanent housing, officials said.
Residents who moved out between 2013 and 2017 also are eligible for assistance and can decide whether to apply grant funds retroactively toward their current homes or relocate again.
Due to requirements of the federal grant program, the site must remain and open space and cannot be redeveloped. The village intends to work with the Wheeling Park District to create a plan for the site.