Neither the Leesburg Town Council nor residents of a mobile home park near the downtown area appear to have a silver-bullet solution to either prevent the sale of the decades-old community, or to accommodate its dozens of potentially displaced residents.
When news broke in August that an $11 million purchase of the Leesburg Mobile Park was pending, by a then unknown buyer, residents quickly rallied to voice their concerns that they would eventually be displaced from their homes, with no affordable alternative within miles. Mobile home park residents have become a presence at Town Council meetings since then, pleading with the council to do something to help to ensure they would not be forced from the land and their homes.
Just as apparent has been a desire by the council to offer a solution to residents, but those options appear to be fleeting as the sale of the property approaches, with closing anticipated in mid-December.
During the council’s Monday night work session, Planning and Zoning Department Director Susan Berry-Hill said, with a sale pending and the town needing to stay out of the way, the only options available to the council would be to work with Loudoun County and area nonprofits to aid residents with relocation efforts, should the property be redeveloped. Continuing to serve as a conduit of information between the contract purchaser, identified in a recent public meeting as Darius Saiedi, and the residents is also important, she said.
Saiedi has declined to comment on the purchase or plans for the property.
What the council does not want to do, Town Attorney Christopher Spera said, is to legislate any spot zoning or changes in the Town Plan that could impede a sale.
“We don’t want to be in a situation where any action taken [by the council] interferes with the seller and buyer,” Spera said. “What we don’t want to do is get so close to the line where we’re engaging in targeted property specific zoning actions or in a conversation that’s going to interfere with the consideration under the contract.”
The 7.2-acre property is identified in the Town Plan, currently under review for an update, as a location of high-density residential development, Berry-Hill said. Under the current zoning up to 12 residential units per acre could be erected by-right and not requiring Town Council approval. The town’s Affordable Dwelling Unit ordinance would apply, although Berry-Hill was quick to note that with the below market rate rental prices the mobile home park’s tenants are currently paying, the provision of that ordinance within the property would “not be affordable to the residents who live there.”
Berry-Hill noted that the contract purchaser has a pre-application meeting scheduled this week with town staff. That request came into the town’s Department of Plan Review, which typically handles administrative reviews, rather than Berry-Hill’s department, which handles applications like rezonings and special exceptions that require legislative review. Town Manager Kaj Dentler, however, advised the council not to read too much into the contract purchaser’s intentions.
“The developer said he is exploring his options,” Dentler said.
Should the sale close and the property proceed to be redeveloped, Berry-Hill said applications requiring only administrative review typically take 12 to 18 months. The applicant must then submit building plans to Loudoun County. Berry-Hill said she was not sure how long that process would take. All mobile home park residents were informed via a letter in September that there would be no notice to vacate the property for at least a year.
Vice Mayor Marty Martinez underscored the need to work with the county government to help the residents, and even suggested inquiring about available property to potentially house a community of manufactured homes somewhere near town. He also said that if the sale does not go through, the council could entertain the notion of buying the property.
There was a feeling of angst apparent on the council dais.
“It’s hard not to feel rather helpless when we so very much want to help,” Councilwoman Kari Nacy said.
Councilman Ara Bagdasarian was even more frank.
“I’m pretty sure that I speak for most if not all that of the council that we empathize with the situation and it sucks,” he said.
Mobile home park residents were expected to stage another protest at Town Hall on Tuesday evening..