The future of North Hill is coming into focus, and it looks very similar to its past, a mobile home park with a plan similar to the one that was intended over 20 years ago, calling for 65 units on 11 acres.
At Wednesday’s meeting of the Route 1 Task Force for Human Services, Mount Vernon’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority commissioner Elizabeth Lardner described a community with a “neighborhood feel” featuring new mobile homes with features like pitched roofs and front porches. She said the RHA may decide to use doublewide trailers. “It doesn’t look like your old mobile home park.”
Lardner said residents will own their homes, but lease the pads from the county, which will set income requirements. But she stressed that the information she was presenting is preliminary, and details have not been worked out.
Lardner said the steeper portions of the 33-acre site will be kept as open space. Some trees will be kept and a recreational park will be developed.
“A compromise needed to be found,” she said.
The tree-covered hill on the east side of Richmond Highway, near Lockheed Boulevard has long been a point of dispute between advocates for affordable housing and advocates for parkland. But at his February Town Meeting, Mount Vernon Supervisor Gerry Hyland called for a compromise solution that will preserve green space on the site. “That allows everyone to be a little happy and a little unhappy,” he said.
In 1981, RHA bought the North Hill site using federal money designated specifically for low-income housing. It designed a two-phase mobile home park for the site. The first phase, called Woodley Hills Estates, was built and contains over 100 units. But Phase II, planned for the more steeply pitched part of the hill, was never built. Concerns about marine clay, the unstable soil in parts of the site, led to rising price estimates and delays that eventually lasted decades.
RHA will now be returning to the Phase II plan, partly because it will allow them to build without requesting exemptions to the area’s zoned use.
THE WOODED SITE is still zoned for affordable housing. But the comprehensive plan, a document that guides development in the county, calls the site a park. An effort to amend the plan to call for housing was soundly defeated one year ago by the Area Plan Review Task Force, which was reviewing the comprehensive plan and rejected the affordable housing amendment 19-6-1,
At the Task Force meeting, affordable housing advocate Bob Trimble credited Hyland for pushing through affordable housing despite the setback. “I want to pay tribute to Supervisor Hyland for making the decision that he did at the APR meeting one year ago,” Trimble said.
“He put his neck out and… persisted until the right thing happened,” said Anne Andrews, the convener of the Route 1 Task Force, which meets monthly to discuss human services issues.
“Those people who advocate for the preservation of trees will be assured that there are ample trees that will be saved there,” Trimble added. “It is a win, win situation.”
Lardner said the RHA is in the process of hiring architects and engineers to create a more detailed plan. RHA decided to release preliminary information because of the controversial nature of the site. She said there will be a series of regular meetings to update people on the status of the plans “to get issues out and work on rumor management.”