Residents in the Leesburg Mobile Home Park hosted four members of the Leesburg Town Council to push for answers, as they wonder what will happen to their homes after the property is sold. But town council members did not have many answers.
Crescent Mobile Partners LLC, led by Darius Saeidi, has the property under contract in an $11 million deal, and Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk told park residents that the town council cannot legally interfere. And they told they were caught off guard by the news of the impending sale just like the residents.
“At this point, the sale has not gone through and we can’t touch it—as council members, we cannot touch it, we cannot interfere with it. That is not allowed. We would end up being in great trouble if we did that,” Burk said. “So the sale has not been completed and will not probably be completed until December.”
It was a familiar frustration for the residents; when they approached the county board, Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) told them their fate was a town issue, not county. The high price tag has residents worried that the property, which sits walking distance from downtown Leesburg, will be redeveloped. They have said they don’t know where else they will be able to afford to live. Park residents have also been staging regular marches through town to plead with the town council to do something to save their homes.
So far, the assurances they’ve gotten have been that they won’t be kicked out of their homes in the next year.
Burk was joined at the meeting at the park’s playground Wednesday, Oct. 13 by council members Neil Steinberg, Zach Cummings and “Marty” Martinez, who asked at the meeting to go by his given name Fernando. They said they’ve been meeting with other organizations and nonprofits to consider options, although nothing concrete has emerged. Steinberg asked residents, for example, if it would be acceptable if another form of affordable housing was provided on the property that was not the mobile homes.
Some residents wanted a simpler answer—that the town buy the mobile home park. With a likely price tag of at least $11 million or more even assuming it’s for sale, Cummings said “at this point, we’re discussing all options and it’s an option on the table, but the likelihood is very slim.”
Many of the families in the park have been there for years, raising children who have never lived anywhere else. But council members also heard from some new residents.
“In my hands I have the contract that my husband and I signed on Aug. 2. Then on Aug. 3 we received the notice that this park was being put up for sale,” said one resident speaking through an interpreter. “How could these people allow us to sign a document only to then give us the notice that it was going to be sold off? We have invested all of our savings and even taken out loans to try to even afford a roof over our head. So what are you going to tell me for all the efforts I’ve done? We are older people. We have invested and we have paid taxes and contributed to the community. We are not a burden on anybody. So what have we done wrong?”
And although Saeidi stands to buy the land under their homes, so far the residents have not heard from him personally. Some asked the councilmembers to see if they can get him to meet with park residents.
“It would be nice to at least know who he is and his plans, you know?” said one resident.
“A week ago or two weeks ago, he had his people out here taking pictures of the land, so he has time for that, but he doesn’t have, you know, maybe just 30 minutes to just come in and speak to us,” he added. Residents have also complained that the email provided to them to contact the buyer did not work—Burk said that has been corrected. She also said Saeidi has said he would be willing to hold a community meeting at a future date, but is not ready yet.
“No one said that this would be resolved day from day to night. It’s going to take some time, and we’re willing to go to court and do anything possible to make sure we have this affordable housing that we have now,” said another resident through an interpreter. “And then that goes back to my point as to how you guys want to be remembered: as the authority that showed up tonight but did nothing to save these families and ensure that they have affordable housing, or would you like to be remembered as representatives that heard us and did everything possible to make sure that this mobile park stayed intact?”
In that effort they have some help. Joe Kirkwood, an attorney NOVA Business Law Group with experience in commercial real estate, mergers and acquisitions, and business formations, is helping the residents out on a pro bono basis.
And another resident said the council will need to “work hard,” because the park is only one of many communities that could be asking them for more affordable housing.
While the county at large works to encourage more price-controlled and attainable housing, the town has done little concrete to increase its stock of lower-price housing—and in fact the town caps the number of county Affordable Dwelling Units within its borders at 120. Data provided by the county Commissioner of the Revenue’s office listed only 23 ADUs in Leesburg, although other housing programs like the federal Housing Choice Voucher program are also possible.
The town is also likely years from having a cohesive plan to create more affordable housing—the town plan, which is not expected to be finalized until next year, currently includes a call for an affordable housing plan but no actual plan.
“I will say that I care, our council cares, and one of the things that we are doing, our best just to do what we can to preserve this community,” Martinez said.
“We all know it’s still a failure if we only find homes for 70 of 75 families, if we can’t help all 75. We’ve got to do that,” Cummings said.
The town’s calendar noted the meeting would be “not open to the public,” which would violate Virginia open meetings law. Residents and reporters were not barred from entering.