On today’s episode of Ownership Matters, we’re joined by Dennis Jakubowski, Board President of Marilla Country Village, a resident-owned community in Alden, New York. The community is in its 10th year of resident ownership and has 154 lots. Dennis tells us all about Marilla Country Village’s successes: paving 1.5 miles of road, a new playground, a new tractor for snow emergencies and new homes installed in the community!
ROC USA, started in 2008, works with resident owners in manufactured home communities.
0:24 Host introductions
Paul Bradley, president of ROC USA, has worked with resident-owned homes since 1988 and is joined by co-host Mike Bullard, Communications Manager at ROC USA since 2012. They explain that this podcast will highlight the stories of people at the heart of the resident-ownership movement.
0:34 Guest introduction
Paul and Mike are joined today by Dennis Jakubowski, Board President of Marilla Country Village, a resident-owned community in Alden, New York. The community is in its 10th year of existence and has 154 lots. In this time, the community has paved 1.5 miles of road, set up a septic system, bought a playground, upkeep tree and water maintenance and even bought a tractor for snow emergencies. Site fees in the village have only been raised once over a 10 year period at just $10 extra per month.
5:00 Structure and strategy for adding new homes in the community
Dennis explains their process of adding new homes to the community. He explains that a committee was formed within the community, and they managed to find a place to purchase reasonable, true value homes. They had enough money from the previous years that, upon bringing up the prospects of a new site to the community members, an amount was agreed upon to purchase new homes and fill the empty lots. The three bedroom home was sold for $48,500. Monthly site fees include $395 for a single and $405 for a double.
6:40 What goes into adding a new home and is it worth it?
Dennis says it is absolutely worth it to add new homes as it serves as extra income. The capital improvement funds are used for pads, hookups and the home itself. They pay for the infrastructure and the inhabitant pays for the actual home.
8:00 Winter weather in the area
In such close proximity by Lake Eerie and Lake Ontario, Marilla Country Village is located right in the snow belt. Dennis recounts a winter storm a few years back that brought in 5 feet of snow. The community banded together to clear sites of snow, though one roof actually fell in due to a misunderstanding. The National Guard even were involved in bringing in prescriptions for those who couldn’t get out.
10:30 The future of the Co-op
Dennis breaks down the community’s current board staff. He says anyone who wants to be included in the board is able to. More people are getting involved and the meetings are open to all residents.
12:15 Reputation of Marilla Country Village in the area.
Dennis is on the community-based committee at the local school district focused on improvements. The community regularly donates to the Dollars For Scholars Fund and hope to have a scholarship for any of the kids living in the park. Marilla Country Village at one time did not have a good reputation, but that has since changed. They maintain good relationships with the local police and town.
14:00 People living in the community.
About 65 percent of the homeowners in the park are 65 and older. Many people who have recently moved into the community downsized, and Dennis says there’s quite a wide range of ages represented.
15:00 Community engagement
Marilla started a food donation center when COVID hit for anyone who was in need. Many neighbors routinely check in with each other as well.
16:17 Dennis’s speaking engagement with ROC.
Dennis now occasionally travels to speak to people interested in purchasing their own cooperative communities. He has delivered four speeches now, each one resulting in the listeners purchasing parks of their own. He preps them for the challenges that arise in the beginning stages and gives them examples of what works in his own park.
14:40 Dennis’s favorite story from a ROC Leadership Institute.
Dennis recalls a meeting in Ohio, discussing his hopes for a community center. He was advised to look into grants for a storm shelter which could double as a community center. But, he says, this kind of planning takes little steps at a time. He most enjoys learning from others and bouncing ideas off of each other at such meetings.
19:10 The importance of a good property manager
A property manager takes a lot of pressure off the community. The company Marilla uses collects rent, conducts property inspections once a month and notifies anyone in violation. Using a third party ensures everything remains fair.
21:27 Advice and concluding thoughts.
As the President of his community, Dennis says his biggest piece of advice is to be fair with everybody in the park. They conduct intensive background checks and meet with prospective residents to ensure safety.