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Pack Up the Trailer and Go

Developer may have other plans for Fairfax mobile home park.

Concerned residents of the Waples Mill Mobile Home Park gathered at Providence Elementary School on Saturday, Dec. 10, to hear what was going to happen to their homes.

Developer A.J. Dwoskin, who owns the park, is proposing an amendment to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan as part of this year’s Area Plans Review. The revision would permit the redevelopment of the mobile home park into multi-family residential units. The amendment also offers the option to redevelop the land adjacent to the park as a day-care center or other use for the people living in the apartments, townhouses or condominiums built on the mobile home park.

A.J. Dwoskin will not do anything with the land, located on Lee Highway and Waples Mill Road, until the year 2012, said A.J. Dwoskin representative Roni Robins.

"We do not have immediate plans to redevelop the mobile home park," she said. The APR amendment proposal is not the same thing as a rezoning, she said, and if A.J. Dwoskin did apply for rezoning before 2012, it would not do so until 2010 or 2011.

A.J. Dwoskin is not entirely sure of what, exactly, it will do with the property, said Robins, but the general idea is to tap into the "workforce housing" market. This market, while not quite low-income, is made up of the teachers and county workers who cannot afford the high house prices in Fairfax County, said Robins.

"In urbanizing areas, it is very hard to maintain mobile home parks," she said.

While some older Waples Mill residents can remember other mobile home parks in the area, such as one across from 29 Diner, these no longer exist. Waples Mill is the last mobile home park in the Fairfax area, and one of the last in the county, said Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock).

It is early for A.J. Dwoskin to enter the APR amendment if they have no plans until 2012, said Bulova. According to Robins, the developer wanted to engage the community in discussion early, while plans are still fluid.

"We hope that people will be thinking over four, five, six or seven years, what options there will be," said Ben Tompkins, a consultant with Reed Smith LLP. "A.J. Dwoskin is trying to do this in the right way."

THE RESIDENTS of Waples Mill are not so sure, however. Foremost on their minds was the question of what would happen to them and their homes.

A.J Dwoskin and Fairfax County would try to assist residents with relocation or provide some kind of financial assistance if the park were redeveloped, said Robins, although she could not outline any specifics. Although residents whose mobile homes were in good shape could relocate to another park, said Robins, the closest available ones are in Prince William County. For many residents, however, Waples Mill is not just any mobile home park.

Deborah Barnett, who moved to Waples Mill in March after spending months on a waiting list, said she has tried her hardest to stay in Fairfax County so that her daughter, who has special needs, can stay in Fairfax County Public Schools.

"You can't throw people out there and say that Fairfax County is going to give anybody assistance," said Barnett. She lost her apartment after she was unable to pay rent, and recently lost her job. After putting $15,000 into her home in Waples Mill, she said, she is not ready to lose anything else.

"It is completely unacceptable to move to another county," said Barnett.

"[A.J. Dwoskin] would recreate affordable units by building apartments there," said Bulova. "Except that if you ask the people who live in the mobile home park, they would say that it's a totally different kind of lifestyle than the one the people in the park experience. Plus, they already own a mobile home, so that doesn't really translate for them."

"You know what’s a real shame?" asked Peyton Moncure, a longtime resident of the park. "It’s a shame for them to say, 'Hey, man, we’ll help you get out.'"

Other residents, like Alex Lopez, have spent time and money improving their homes. Lopez, who has lived in Waples Mill for three years, recently put new tile on his floor.

"I'm concerned about what we put into our homes, versus losing it," said Lopez. But six years' notice is better than nothing, he said.

According to longtime resident Randy Broadway, the possibility that the park will be redeveloped has already made it far more difficult for Waples Mill residents to sell their homes.

"I've lost one deal, possibly two, because of the redevelopment," he said. Broadway's brother, who had signed the paperwork to move from Maryland into an adjacent mobile home, learned about Saturday's meeting and immediately withdrew his application.

"You should have come with a lot more answers to help people," said Broadway. "We can't wait till the last year [before redevelopment]. You need to figure out how to help people now."