By Sheri Duff
It felt as if businessman Tony Pomerleau wore a big white hat and rode into town on a white horse last Friday night, April 20. Accompanied by Rev. Craig Smith, Pomerleau met with over a dozen Shelburnewood Mobile Home Park residents at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Shelburne to discuss his plans to purchase the property. Pomerleau came armed with a new site plan, contingent on town and zoning approvals, and a recent verbal agreement with Marv and Sue Thomas, owners of the property on which the mobile home park is situated. He began the meeting with this decree, “I won’t let them get rid of the mobile home park.”
During the one hour and half meeting Pomerleau shared details of the updated plan interspersed with personal stories about growing up in Newport, Vt. during the depression. His three-phase plan includes these highlights and upgrades:
• Construct an emergency access to the church property
• Remove the existing barn
• Install a replacement water main to improve performance and to provide improved fire protection
• Create a connection as a second access point to the park (pending improvements on the Dyer property)
• Relocate and establish three additional unit sites for a total of 31
“I’ve been very fortunate in my life. So I’m doing this for you guys,” Pomerleau expressed to those in attendance. “And I’m happy to do it.” In fact, the 95-year-old successful businessman has further vision for the role of the mobile home residents in the project’s development: he doesn’t plan to remain the owner of the mobile home park after the purchase. Instead, Pomerleau wants to organize the residents and help make arrangements for them to become a co-op to eventually own the property.
“What a relief,” said President of the Shelburnewood Mobile Home Park Association Vicki Carleton. “Most residents were just kind of waiting it out. We spent so much time networking and contacting people to come up with a win-win solution for us and the town. This sounds like what we’ve been waiting for,” she commented.
Shelburne resident Ed Vizvarie attended the meeting to speak on behalf of his mother, the oldest resident of the mobile home park, “Mr. Pomerleau, I want to thank you for all you have done,” Vizvarie announced. “My 91-year-old mother is so happy living there.”
Pomerleau first became aware of the plight through two of his employees and mobile home park residents, Mary Phelps and Tina Sordiff. “I wanted his opinion about a letter we received so I brought him the paperwork,” Phelps said. “He said not to worry. That he would step in. And he did.”
Before Pomerleau entertained questions from the audience about the project, he emphasized two points. The first was that he has never been turned down for a development, and secondly, he added, even if he were turned down he would not give up. “I’ve been doing this a long time,” he commented. “I can make this happen.”
While discussing the next steps for his proposal, Pomerleau asked the residents for their support and patience. “Even if the town is 100 percent behind the project, it will take at least three to four months to get through zoning,” he warned. “Many roadblocks could come up through the process. We have some work to do.”