Residents of Lakeside Crossing took to the street Thursday to protest lot rent specials the development owner gives to new buyers that current owners say make it impossible for them to sell their homes.
Thursday’s demonstration was staged for the media, organizer David Weissman said, but day-long protests by teams of residents are to start Friday morning.
“It’s a nice community,” said Weissman, rabbi of Temple Shalom in Conway. “The amenities are nice. But when people sell their homes, they’re losing $50,000, $75,000, $100,000.”
Weissman and others at Thursday’s demonstration said the problem is that current residents are paying lot rentals that are adjusted upward by about 3 percent to 5 percent a year while the owner, Sobelco of Boca Raton, Fla., offers new buyers a special rate.
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That means that current owners could be paying $500 a month or more. The special rate is $199 a month.
The current month’s lot rental is transferred to new buyers, which leaves currently-occupied properties to compete with new lots offered at the special rate.
Weissman said he wrote letters to company owner Samuel Sobel warning him that the inequity could lead to public protests.
Sobel and his chief financial officer came to Myrtle Beach to meet with Weissman, but the rabbi said no relief was offered.
In a follow-up letter to Weissman, Sobel wrote that the developer is more hurt by the special rate offered new buyers than are current homeowners. Sobel wrote that the lot rents are contractually tied to the development’s mortgage and cannot be changed.
Additionally, Sobel wrote that current residents are not assessed for any shortfall in revenues to operate the community’s clubhouse, pool and other amenities, according to a copy of the letter that Weissman gave to The Sun News.
He wrote that the special lot rent rates were necessary to stimulate sales in the down economy and that they would go away when conditions improved enough to warrant it.
Sobel could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Weissman said he has set up a daily schedule of two picketers at each of Lakeside Crossing’s two entrances on Myrtle Ridge Road, just off U.S. 501 between Myrtle Beach and Conway.
Each set of picketers will man their stations in two-hour shifts. Weissman said the protest will go for eight hours a day, seven days a week.
His hope is that prospective buyers will shy away from the development and that Sobel will be forced back to the negotiating table.
But the protesters were not unified on what their bottom-line position is.
Weissman said he thinks current rents should be frozen for 10 years, a time to allow the special rate rent to catch up with what others pay.
But resident Simon Kaplan said he thinks the developer should charge higher rents to new buyers. His wife Linda Kaplan said current owners should be allowed to sell their homes at the lot rent they initially paid, which would help even the cost with new properties.
What, then, is the bottom line?
Weissman said he would defer to his wife Mary, who said she believed that current owners should be able to sell with the same $199-a-month lot rent deal as now offered new buyers.
All agreed that they could agree on that as their base for negotiations.
Sobel wrote in his letter that he knew his answer did not satisfy Weissman’s concern. He understood if residents decided to picket.
“But,” he wrote, “(we) hope you realize that this action would likely further decrease the re-rices and impact the current homeowners more than the landlord.”