Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office issued a statement June 7 proudly declaring victory in its fight with the owners of an RV park in Sandwich, the Quincy Patriot Ledger reported.
After all, Peters Pond RV Resort decided to settle the case – in which the park operators were accused of strong-arming owners of park model RVs into paying steep membership fees – by agreeing to fork over $200,000 to the state and to offer new disclosures to future customers. Peters Pond RV Resort also agreed to provide membership refunds to consumers who requested them.
But several hours later, Peters Pond RV Resort issued its own press statement, declaring that it had prevailed over a reckless investigation that Coakley’s office pursued.
The truth, as it so often happens with settlements like this, is somewhere in the middle.
Yes, Coakley’s staff was able to extract $200,000 from the owner of the Peters Pond park, an affiliate of Morgan RV Resorts.
But Peters Pond RV Resort said it would have provided refunds to customers anyway, regardless of Coakley’s action. More importantly, Coakley was unable to win a judgment that declared that these RVs should be considered manufactured homes – a legal definition that comes with a whole host of extra protections.
Many residents of Peters Pond complained to Coakley last year, saying that they were being aggressively pushed to spend as much as $13,000 on membership fees if they wanted to guarantee that they could keep their sites at Peters Pond. Many of them felt like they were being harassed.
But by the fall, dozens of residents decided the headaches weren’t worth the price and had packed up their RVs and left the site for good. They said at the time that they were sad to leave a community that they enjoyed, but didn’t want to stick around and deal with Morgan’s new fees and policies. Many of the residents had been using their sites at the Cape Cod property from May through October and hoped to keep doing so through their retirements.
The case potentially could have set a statewide precedent, as Coakley had argued that these park model RVs should be treated like manufactured homes because many of them were big and had semi-permanent structures like decks connected to them that made it tough to move them. But the case ended in Suffolk Superior Court with a settlement last week, without a definitive judge’s answer to that crucial question in the case.