The crowd at Providence Elementary School Saturday, Feb. 11 had nearly doubled since A.J. Dwoskin and Associates first met with residents of the Waples Mobile Home Park in December to discuss possible redevelopment of the park.
"Many of our residents have been here for a long time, want to stay, and want to work with the county to do so," said Roni Robins, director of development at A.J. Dwoskin, which has owned the park since the 1970s. The developer is proposing an amendment to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan as part of this year’s Area Plans Review that would permit the redevelopment of the mobile home park into multi-family residential units. If the amendment goes through, starting in 2012, A.J. Dwoskin will begin developing the mobile home park as apartments, townhouses or condominiums. Some of these, said Robins, will be developed as affordable housing. However, she said, the developer will not do anything with the land, located on Lee Highway and Waples Mill Road, until the year 2012.
At the December meeting, residents voiced their concerns about the possible redevelopment. Although Robins said that A.J. Dwoskin would work with Fairfax County and give Waples Mobile Home Park residents priority for the affordable dwelling units in the redevelopment, many residents said they did not want to live in apartments. Some liked mobile home living because it was a low-cost way to have a house and a yard and wanted to remain in a mobile home park. However, the closest mobile home parks are in Prince William County, and many residents wanted to remain in Fairfax County because of its schools or for work reasons.
OTHERS WONDERED how the developer would assist residents if they had to move. "If they relocate us and we decide to stay [in the apartments], where in the world are they going to put you while they're doing construction?" asked Waples Mobile Home Park resident Randy Broadway. He said he did not know how the developer would compensate residents for 2-3 bedroom homes, or how he would accommodate his grandchildren when they came to visit him.
"They're downgrading us, not moving us up," he said.
In January, A.J. Dwoskin sent out a survey to residents to gather information and see what their different needs were. Some of the residents have special needs, some are seniors, and some have income restrictions, said Robins.
If the park is redeveloped, A.J. Dwoskin will provide financial assistance to mobile home park residents who need it, she said. According to Benjamin Tompkins, who represents A.J. Dwoskin, the county standard for affordable housing eligibility is an income of 80 percent or less of the standard median income. Many residents of the park would need assistance beyond that for relocation, he said, which A.J. Dwoskin would provide.
However, resident Michelle Smith fears that the financial assistance will not apply to all the people who live in the mobile home park. Not all the residents of Waples Mobile Home Park have very low incomes, she said. Some, like Rick Joan, live in the park as a way to save up money.
"I understand that probably half the residents in there have low incomes," said Joan. "But some of us are utilizing the fact that it's very economic housing while we're building a little nest egg."
AT SATURDAY'S MEETING, residents wondered why A.J. Dwoskin is considering a plan amendment to allow redevelopment of the mobile home park in the first place.
Over the years, said Al Dwoskin, owner of the development company, the infrastructure of the park has deteriorated, and it is becoming too expensive for A.J. Dwoskin to operate the land as a mobile home park.
"It is important to have a park in good condition," said Dwoskin. "As the years go on, we are going to be running into infrastructure issues with sewer and water."
According to Robins, the survey also showed that most of the trailers in the park were between 20 and 40 years old. Smith said her mobile home was sinking into the ground and required constant remodeling to keep it livable.
Also, said Dwoskin, mobile home parks are considered "transitory uses" by Fairfax County planning standards. As the area develops, he said, mobile home parks become less useful. There is a moratorium on new mobile home parks being built in Fairfax County, he said.
This makes residents like Joan wonder what will happen if they relocate.
"If I go someplace else, there go my savings," he said.