The Crozet Mobile Village mobile home community on Park Road has been sold to a new owner who intends to increase the number of units on the site and bring the development into conformity with county code. Richard L. Hevener, who owns and operates Hevener’s Cars and Trucks in Buena Vista, owned the Crozet Mobile Village property since 1978. Hevener sold it in January of this year for $4 million to a limited liability company called Crozet MHC (Mobile Home Community), which is now one of a collection of eight mobile home parks in Virginia operating under an umbrella company called Roseland Communities.
The 15-acre site is about a half-mile east of Crozet Park, bounded by Adele and Alfred Streets, and hosts 73 mobile (or “manufactured”) homes. The village was established before the county’s 1980 zoning ordinance went into effect, and it fails to conform with current zoning rules in a multitude of ways. Crozet MHC plans to add 14 additional units for a total of 87, but needs the county to recognize the development as a proper manufactured home park before it can act.
Manufactured home parks are not allowed by-right in Albemarle county, so Crozet MHC’s application requests a special use permit for the park itself, as if it were planning to establish a park in that location for the first time. However, rather than rearranging the existing units and adding infrastructure and amenities to bring the park into conformity with current regulations, the developer is asking for more than two dozen waivers for both existing and proposed lots on the site.
The waivers encompass almost every aspect of the zoning code for manufactured homes—size of homes, frontage distances and orientation, distances between homes, setbacks, outdoor living and storage requirements, parking and internal street requirements, as well as specs for driveways, recreation areas, landscaping, screening, storm sewers, and construction materials. In most categories, few existing or proposed lots meet the regulations, and no remedies are proposed in the application.
The application quotes the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development in asserting that “manufacturing housing is the largest source of unsubsidized affordable housing in the United States,” and that the proposed 14 new sites “would be constructed as infill development, contributing to overall housing supply and choice.” The 14-unit expansion would be the same scale as the existing units, and it would adhere to the Crozet Master Plan’s 6-12 units per acre (Middle Density Residential) recommendation on the county’s latest land use map.
Though manufactured home park residents usually own their structure, they must rent their space in the park. If landlords increase the rent, owners often are in a bind, as moving a manufactured home can cost $5,000-8,000 if the home is new enough to be moved without damage, and finding space in another village is difficult. Residents of the former Crozet Mobile Village have reported that their monthly rent, which includes water and trash service, increased by 40% since Crozet MHC took over.
The current tight U.S. housing market has spurred an increase in investors who buy mobile or manufactured home parks and sell them to developers, who empty the parks to build more profitable types of housing on the land. Though the new owners appear to intend to expand, rather than raze, the village, neither the managers of Crozet MHC nor its agents responded to multiple requests for comment on their proposal, and the company’s ownership structure is multi-layered.
The entity called Crozet MHC was incorporated in November of 2021, just before acquiring the Crozet Mobile Village property in January of 2022. Crozet MHC and seven other similarly-incorporated mobile home parks are grouped together on the roselandcommunities.com website, which appears to be managed by a private equity real estate investment firm called North Highland Partners (NHP). NHP’s website says it focuses on “acquiring, improving, and operating multifamily and manufactured housing communities nationwide,” and has been in business since 2020.
The “partners” are Tim Henderson and Luke Heinsohn, who live in Arlington and Charlottesville, respectively. Henderson is the signatory on a county authorization appointing Shimp Engineering to make any necessary land use applications, including the Special Use Permit, for Crozet MHC. North Highland has been acquiring the mobile home parks over the last two years in Virginia locations from Roanoke to Newport News, at prices ranging from $1 million to $4 million, according to records from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.
A community meeting is scheduled for this project with the Crozet Community Advisory Committee on January 11, 2023, according to Kevin McCollum, senior planner for Albemarle county. “Staff is currently reviewing this application and will work with the applicant to schedule a public hearing with the Planning Commission,” said McCollum.
A 40% rent hike on a low-income community, with no plans to bring the properties up to code, is just unconscionable! Are Luke Heinsohn and Tim Henderson slumlords?