UPDATE 7/12/22 – Since the publication of this piece on May 24th 2022, the situation has worsened for individuals affected by the events at Cactus Ridge Community. See the end of this article for details.
When it comes to financial gain, many of us forget one of the lessons instilled by our parents and grandparents: “Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean that you SHOULD”. Sadly, the importance of that philosophy continues to dwindle as our culture shifts away from honoring the contributions of our elders. This leaves millions of American seniors concerned for their safety and financial security. And they rarely receive the respect that they’ve earned and deserve.
Nowhere is that truth more evident than in booming cities like Las Vegas, where an influx of new residents can leave certain segments of the population scrambling for essential resources. And in the tiny manufactured home community of Cactus Ridge, over 100 vulnerable residents, including United States veterans, have been given the order to vacate their homes.
Serene, peaceful Bonnie Springs is now a luxury housing community…
A city that’s growing in population, height, and footprint isn’t necessarily bad if local resources and infrastructure can support it. But Las Vegas simply cannot. Thanks to recent discoveries in what was once known as Lake Mead, the entire nation is aware of our dwindling water supply. Every year, NV Energy promises to handle summer cooling demands, then issues widespread alerts during heatwaves to lower power consumption.
Despite the lack of adequate utilities, roads, and water supply, builders continue to encroach on what was once considered to be protected lands. We’ve already witnessed the loss of historic Bonnie Springs, and Clark County politicians have turned over portions of Red Rock Canyon to allow for a housing community.
Photo: Save Red Rock
Heather Fisher, President of the Save Red Rock organization, stated “We continue to hold additional concerns about water access, legal road access, and the degradation of the overall Red Rock Canyon experience in August of last year. Naturally, those words fell on deaf ears as the Clark County Planning Commission unanimously approved an application for Gypsum Resouces to move forward with a housing project (Source – 8 News Now).
As painful as blows from Clark County have been to the functional health of Las Vegas, that scenario seems to be playing out yet again. This time, it’s the citizens of a small retirement village who are being displaced by the proverbial wrecking ball of “progress”. This writer visited Cactus Ridge Manufactured Home Community in order to put names and faces to the stories of these retirees. They are hoping to have their voices heard at a time when housing options are more expensive and less available than ever before.
Two couples are leading the charge to prevent the loss of Cactus Ridge to builders. Eleanor and Ray Houlette (above, left) have resided in the peaceful retirement community for sixteen years. They’re joined in the effort by Kathy and Loren “Mitch” Mitchell (right), who have been their neighbors for only two years but have laid down deep roots together.
The friends have enjoyed their time at Cactus Ridge, building a relationship during excursions to nearby South Point Casino for movies, dinners, and gaming. Together, they’ve looked out for other neighbors, some of whom require assistance in their daily activities. Kathy expressed concern for an especially frail resident who lives alone and requires oxygen. Nevertheless, this neighbor enjoys walks through the neighborhood, inside which she continues to feel safe.
Cactus Ridge has indeed become a bit of a safe haven for many through the years. With its secured gates and high walls, the community offers a sense of security from an increasingly dangerous outside world. But far from sheltered, the residents enjoy easy access to shopping, nearby medical facilities, and plentiful entertainment and dining options.
A central clubhouse allows for indoor activities like game nights and parties. A beautifully-kept outdoor area offers a large swimming pool, barbecue grills, and access to tennis and basketball courts. It’s just about everything that a self-sufficient senior could hope for.
In February of this year. a decision was made to clear out all 190 spaces of the age-restricted property. An order was issued to evict everyone within the next year. This notice is the first step in rezoning the property for multi-family apartment construction. While the rezoning process should take about six months, the property’s owners have given residents twelve months to find new homes or to relocate their current structures.
As Ray Houlette learned through hours of online research, Cactus Ridge has a tumultuous history. It was originally created to address a takeover of two previous mobile home communities on Tropicana Avenue. Through the process of “eminent domain”, McCarran Airport (now Harry Reid Interntational) seized those properties in 1998 and relocated residents to the current spot off South Las Vegas Boulevard. Tenants were promised a 42-month freeze on rent increases as part of the package, but that and other agreements faded with time as land ownership changed over and again.
As Houlette continued to dig through two decades of documents and legal transactions, the retired Marine discovered a convoluted tale that involved everyone from Clark County Department of Aviation and then-County Commissioner (current Governor) Steven Sisolak to Michael Ochoa. Ochoa’s a local businessman who lists himself as President, Secretary, Treasurer, Director, and “agent” of Ochoa Development Corporation.
According to CorporationWiki.com, Ochoa has “has been associated with sixteen companies, according to public records. The companies were formed over a twenty-six-year period with the most recent being incorporated one year ago in May of 2021. Seven of the companies are still active while the remaining nine are now listed as inactive.”
Throughout the years, the legal transactions surrounding Cactus Ridge and its rapidly-rising property values have raised eyebrows over the county’s appraisal process. That same concern is coming into play now, as the soon-to-be-displaced residents are questioning the amounts being offered for their homes as part of the relocation package.
Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell, the Houlettes, and others at Cactus Ridge see their residences as “houses”, not “mobile homes”. With meticulously-kept landscaping, porches, backyard storage sheds, flag poles, and charming personal accents, the individual homes project a sense of pride and permanence.
Nevertheless, a large percentage of lots have already been vacated. Dozens of portable storage pods dot the streets, and abandoned personal possessions pile up on the curbsides, waiting for trash collectors.
One resident who isn’t objecting to the current situation is Sheila Herckis. Responding quickly to the notification, she arranged a transfer to the nearby Paradise Trails mobile home community. During the relocation process, she plans to visit out-of-state family, using $6,000.00 being provided for temporary lodging.
Herckis quickly pointed out that her move will include any repairs required to bring her building up to code. Cactus Ridge is providing movers to pack up her possessions, new skirting around the base, leveling, set-up, two inspections, and new stairs if required. Once her home is ready to be re-occupied, she will receive an additional $750 “inconvenience fee”. She also noted that rent for her new lot will be lower.
Sheila Herckis gives a different perspective on the relocation process…
“I don’t have any problem with this” Ms. Herckis stated. “They’re being more than fair. You can’t expect to live out the rest of your life in a mobile home park and not face change. You have to go with what’s happening.”
Asked how she felt about resistance from her neighbors, the seventy-two-year-old was candid. “They waited too long! It’s been over two months, and now the choices are running out. Cactus Ridge is willing to move us anywhere within 150 miles. You can’t go against a lawyer and someone who has a huge investment. ”
Screencap from Fox5 News segment Dani Masten 5/11/22
For active seniors like Ms. Herckis, being relocated may be just another cog in the gears of progress. But for those who are blind, in wheelchairs, or otherwise compromised, forced uprooting is a traumatic experience. As Mr. Houlette told Fox5 reporter Dani Masten “I’m ninety and she’s eighty-four. It’s difficult for us to go through this at this time. What are we going to do? I don’t know.”
Mrs. Houlette added “There’s no place we can go that’s comparable. We have three bedrooms and two bathrooms. We’ve put a lot into it. I think they’re treating us as disposable because we’re seniors. We still have a lot to give.”
UPDATE 7/12/22: The following email was received by the author of this article on 7/10/22. It was sent from the Mitchells, along with a copy of their moving contract.
Well, we received the official notice that the LLC has filed for the zoning change.I think many of the residents are giving up any hope of remaining here. Mitch and I are trying to get a fair contract for the moving of our home which seems impossible at the moment. We asked for information regarding the timing, responsible parties, length of time for per diem, and more. There no answers. Our neighbors house was moved out and brought to a park less than 5 miles away. They thought the $200/day for 30 days would be sufficient until they were still not in the relocated home 45 days later. We are being moved 145 miles! They want us to accept 30 days per diem with no assurances. I typed up their contract with a few additions which seemed more fair to us.(I will attach it fyi.) At the time we met with Rod Chiddix who represents the lawyers who represent the LLC (Agents on titles: Ochoa and Troesch). The questions we had could not be answered until we sign the contract. (We did not sign anything). Thanks for your concern, The Mitchells Mitch and Kathy
To: Rod Chiddix
I doubt very much if you would sign away all responsibility for possible damages if you were in our shoes. We need some assurance that we’d be entitled to replacement value if damages were to ensue.
Somebody has to take responsibility and provide us with assurance/insurance. We are not an LLC and live on a fixed income. This is one of the most frightening things that has ever happened to us. Please put yourself in our shoes and help us feel secure about this.
By the way, we searched for a home similar to ours and found NOTHING under $150,000.00. The parks within 150 miles, where we’d feel safe, are only taking brand new manufactured homes. The appraisal by Del was about what the trailer trash homes are costing. There is no consideration given to comps when the park is closing!
I have re-typed the agreement and hope you will look it over and consider the changes we think are more fair. If LVB 48 is not responsible, who is? We have had no contract with the movers….are they the responsible party?
Here is what we see:
The list of “NOT RESPONSIBLE” parties:
Owners are protected by LLC.
Owners hire Attorneys who are overseeing documentation and protecting owners.
Attorneys hire Rod Chiddix to get the contract signed and arrange move/permits, etc
Who protects us?
Rod Chiddix hires moving company….are they the RESPONSIBLE party?
Loren and Kathy Mitchell
Special thanks to Mike Foland. All photos by Vegas 411 except where noted.