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Thonotosassa mobile home residents forced to move after sale of property to company building charter school

Posted at 5:56 PM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-01 17:56:54-05

THONOTOSASSA, Fla. — Residents in a mobile home park in Thonotosassa are wondering where they are going to lay their heads after they were forced out of their homes.

Tina Fowler is one of those residents. She has lived in her mobile home for nine years and said the owner, Patricia Jones, notified her in January she had to be out by the end of February.

"She just text me just before you knocked on the door. When did I anticipate moving out," Fowler said.

Fowler and eleven other families received a termination letter on January 24.

The letter read, "I'm sure you have heard the rumors over the last year of the possibility that the park is selling. I have recently received confirmation that the buyers are ready to move forward. This is a hard transition for me, as my father built this park in 1973. However, I'm nearing retirement and should be thinking of my future and scaling it back a bit. I wasn't looking to sell but this company reached out to me in an effort to purchase the property and build a charter school. After a year of their efforts with Hillsborough County, they have finally obtained the approvals they need to move forward on the project. With that being said I am presenting you with a 30-day notice to vacate the premises. This is not a task I take lightly. Some of you have been here 5+ years."

Finding housing in a 30 day period is difficult in itself.

Residents like Sharon Lemily said doing it on a fixed income is nearly impossible.

"I wiped out my savings, $6,500 to find a place for myself, Tim and the two gentlemen that live right next door to me," Lemily said.

Residents had heard rumors the owner was looking to sell the property in November. When they asked Jones about the rumors they said they were met with questionable answers.

"She was like 'oh I am just selling the horse field.' Or 'I'm thinking about putting more trailers in' was the story that we got," Fowler said.

Lemily said she is upset Jones gave such short notice when she may have had an idea of selling long before the start of a new year.

"She waited for the last minute and only gave us 28 days to move out," Lemily said.

ABC Action News reached out to Jones to get her side of the story but our call was sent to voicemail.

A rezoning sign was put in front of the mobile home park in August and, according to Hillsborough County, zoning documents from August show the company, IPS Enterprises INC., was looking to rezone the area to a k-12 private school.

IPS Enterprises is owned by IDEA public schools. The group is based in Texas and owns two properties in the Tampa Bay area.

As the logistics for a charter school play out on the mobile home park, people like Fowler are wondering what the next minute is going to bring.

"We have been looking all over the place," Fowler said. "I could be living in my car or under a bridge."