Baldwin Estates in Double Jeopardy

Wilmington, NC – Russell Baldwin says he's angry. Leland officials want him to connect the park to the town's sewer, pay the fines for not connecting, or close the park. Department of Health officials want him to fix or abandon a malfunctioning septic tank, but he can't, because Leland officials won't honor the Health Department's permit. Baldwin says Leland's actions against him are unfair.

If we hooked up to the sewer system, we'd have to keep that park there ten more years in order to justify it. And that wouldn't be in the interest of anyone to do that, except for the people living there.

Baldwin says he isn't paying the fines. He says he wants to close the park and develop the land, but only after the widening of nearby Village Road.

In the meantime, Baldwin says he'd like to abandon the malfunctioning tank. David Stanley with the Health Department says because of Leland's ordinance he won't issue the repair permit, because Leland won't honor it. Still, he says the malfunctioning tank is a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria.

Cholera, any type of food born diseases, ecoli, different types of viruses that you can find in waste water.

Stanley says the Health Department will not allow the tank to remain in use, and if Baldwin does not connect to Leland's sewer line . .

We would have no choice but to go ahead and take some type of action, legal action, to go ahead and ensure that the public health threat is mitigated.

But the Town of Leland may beat them to it. Though the town's attorney refused to speak about any possible legal action against Baldwin, last week the attorney's office requested records of other Leland trailer parks.

Leland Town Manager Bill Farris says he has nothing against Baldwin in particular or mobile home parks in general.

I think what we want is not for them to leave but for them to connect.

All of the 41 trailer parks in Leland's history have either closed or connected to the town's sewer system, according to Health Department Statistics. Only Baldwin Estates remains, and residents are worried that they'll be evicted without much notice. Ricky Totherow has lived in Baldwin Estates for almost five years.

It's getting close to the end of the year, they need to tell us something, if they're going to close it down. I keep hearing from friends of mine they're definitely going to close the trailer park down.

So far he says he's heard nothing definite.

Around the corner in his office, Baldwin says he could sell the park now and evict everyone, but won't, because he says something more important is at stake.

It's a matter of principle and a matter of what's best for Leland. I wouldn't have gotten involved in the town in the first place if I didn't have the interest of Leland at heart.

The 81-year-old Baldwin says he loved Leland even before he became its first mayor in 1989. Today he serves on the town's planning board. And while Baldwin waits for the town to force him to obey its laws, residents of his park wait for news about their homes.


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