Penn Daw Terrace mobile home owners finally got a presentation Saturday on a 466-unit development planned for the property adjacent to their mobile home park.
The planning commission already held its public hearing on the rezoning of the property called Alexandria Crossing, but the decision was deferred until Feb. 16 when it became known that the mobile home owners had not been told about the development at the request of the park owner, Lois Epps. Mount Vernon Planning Commissioner Walter Clarke went along with that decision saying, “We have got to respect the business owner as well. We don’t want to be a dictator of other people’s businesses.”
The Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance collected signatures of 27 organizations on a petition asking the planning committee to defer its decision until a public meeting with residents was held as is the practice with any adjacent neighborhood. Mobile home park residents also requested a meeting with the developer and county about area development plans.
Saturday, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck responded with a full-blown event with poster-size maps and illustrations, a presentation by the developer’s agent, the presence of senior county planning staff, and a tour of the site. Spanish translation was available through headsets.
Originally planned for outdoors, the meeting was driven by cold and wind to the lower level of Evolutions Home consignment shop, 6239 Shields Ave., at Richmond Highway, which is on the land being developed and at the entrance to the mobile home park. About 50 participants were comfortably seated on resale couches.
Mobile home owners also learned that the county comprehensive plan has slated their park plus the Walmart Plaza to their south as a high-density hub around a proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) station, which will be located at the front of the current Walmart parking lot. The station, scheduled to be operational in eight years according to Storck, is one of seven in the Embark Plan between Penn Daw and Fort Belvoir.
Storck stressed that park owner Epps has told him multiple times that she is not selling her property. She sent her tenants letters saying that the park is not for sale or under contract. Storck decried the spread of “disinformation” that the mobile home park would be sold, but community organizers denied saying it would be sold soon, only that it was under considerable development pressure given the county’s comprehensive plan which calls for seven-to-10 story buildings surrounding the transit station.
Regarding the Alexandria Crossing development, residents seemed most concerned about the possibility of additional traffic and parking on Shields Avenue where one of the seven-story apartment buildings will have a secondary entrance and where the school bus stops to pick up children. Residents also asked about a retaining wall and fence that will separate the two properties, as well possible runoff, erosion, and construction noise.
Regarding development of the area around the future BRT station, residents asked, “If the land value of our park goes up, will our rents go up? What if the owner decides to sell later? What are our rights?”
Storck said any rent increases would be up to the owner.
He did not specify the rights of mobile home owners displaced by development, but said “the state has a process and the county has a process and the new Manufactured Housing Task Force is making recommendations to update the county process.” State law requires a 180-day notice and $3,500 in moving expenses for mobile home owners displaced by development.
Storck noted that “there will be change all along the corridor and what change we get will be up to all of us.
“My commitment is to meet with the community residents and organizations. I will commit to you that I will leave no one behind. By that I mean that all Mount Vernon property owners and residents will have a place where they feel they can reach their full potential. This is a core value for me.
“Any Mt. Vernon resident displaced by development will have an opportunity to get affordable housing in Mount Vernon District,” Storck said.
He cited two developments under construction, North Hill with 279 affordable units and the Arden with 126 affordable units.
Low-to-moderate income households are generally defined to be those earning 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) or below as indicated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In fiscal year 2021, 60 percent of AMI for a family of four in Fairfax County was $77,400. The upper range of the "moderate income" band extends to 80 percent AMI ($82,300 for a family of four). To qualify, a household would be restricted to income of not more than 50 percent of AMI.
HCD estimates Fairfax County is currently short by 30,000 affordable units, meaning lower-income families may be doubled up or paying more than 30 percent of their income in rent.Following planning commission approval, the rezoning request will go to the Board of Supervisors for approval and setting a date for another public hearing.
Mary Paden is chair of the South County Task Force and a member of the county Manufactured Housing Task Force.