The January 11 meeting of the Crozet Community Advisory Committee (CCAC) featured a presentation by Kelsey Schlein of Shimp Engineering, who described two special use permits requested by the new owners of the Crozet Mobile Home Community (MHC) on Park Road.
The former Crozet Mobile Village was sold in 2022 for $4 million to become part of eight mobile home parks carried under the umbrella of Roseland Communities, which in turn is owned by a private equity real estate investment firm called North Highland Partners. The new owners are requesting county permits to increase the number of units on the site and bring the development into conformity with county code.
The 15-acre site is a half-mile east of Crozet Park, bounded by Adele and Alfred Streets, and currently 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 issue waivers—for everything from parking to setbacks to construction materials—so that the development can be recognized as a proper manufactured home park before it can expand.
“The property is located just southeast of Crozet Park and adjacent to the Westhall subdivision,” said Schlein. “This [manufactured home park] use was established before the 1980 comprehensive rezoning, which established regulations for the county, so this is a nonconforming use on the property. The use can continue as is, but if the owner wants to make any changes, they will need special use permit approvals.”
The permit application proposes building six new units along Park Road and eight near the cul-de-sac of Adele Street, and will not modify or move existing units. “The Comprehensive Plan land use recommendation for this property is middle density residential,” said Schlein, which allows 6-12 units per acre. Although the applicant has requested a 6-month deferral of the permit application (until the end of June), the CCAC meeting counts as the project’s public hearing, and the Planning Commission would be next to hear the proposal after site plan and other reviews are complete.
After Schlein’s brief presentation, CCAC chair Joe Fore asked if the giant tree next to Park Road will be preserved. “Ideally, yes,” said Schlein, “it’s beautiful. I believe it’s right on the right-of-way so we can hopefully limit any disturbance.”
However, long-time Crozet MHC resident Allison Wood provided additional historical perspective. “When the new houses were put in at Westhall, they cut trees all the way from Rt. 240 down to the trailer park, so if there wasn’t anything to stop that I’m not sure why there would be any way to stop from cutting this tree,” she said. County planner Kevin McCullum suggested that the tree might be preserved during the site review plan, or at a minimum, new trees could be required.
CCAC member Marc McKenney asked how much clearcutting of trees would have to happen on the north side near the creek for the proposed expansion. Schlein said, “There will be a 100-foot separation off the stream, so all of those trees are kind of in a buffer area.” McKenney also asked about protections for the residents from future increased traffic through the neighborhood.
“Eventually when the Eastern Avenue connector goes in, you’re going to have Rt. 250 connected to the park,” he said. “Is there a way to require the developer to have sidewalks put in along that stretch [for this project]? The homes are just fifty feet from the road, and we’ve already had two cars go through fence on Park Road, so can you recommend an additional barrier to put between these people’s homes and the amount of traffic that’s going to increase through there?”
McCollum noted that the comprehensive plan does recommend a sidewalk along that road, and that would be discussed during site plan review.
“This sounds like a general concern that applies to all of the Park Road area,” said county planner Rebecca Ragsdale. “Fifty feet is already a big setback for development area streets, nearly twice what a typical R6 development requires. Setbacks are typically 5 to 25 feet.”
CCAC member Kostas Alibertis, who is chief of the Western Albemarle Rescue Squad, asked about a proposed alley between two roads on the interior of the mobile home park. “Will you work with fire marshals on that?” he asked. “If it’s narrow and there’s no turnaround, then it’s one way in and one way out and that’s tough for us, especially because people would be parking vehicles along there.” The planners said that the fire marshal would review the plan.
When the Crozet MHC residents in attendance were asked directly if they were in favor of the proposal, Wood provided comments from her own experience. “I’ve lived in this mobile home park since I was born, so it’s been there forty years now,” she said. “Unfortunately, Albemarle County drastically lacks affordable housing, especially in the Crozet area. This place has allowed my family, my children, to have views of the mountains and a better education in this area. If the 14 mobile homes are not approved, a developer will come in, buy the property, and build apartments. The majority of the Crozet mobile home community does live off of social security or disability, so even if we are given first option for [future] apartment houses, we are probably not going to be able to afford them.”
Wood also expressed the view that approving the expansion might forestall the new owners from selling the land to developers. “Allowing the new units will also keep lots affordable for current residents,” she said. “We just got bought out and now we see rent starting to go up little by little, and new units can take some of the pressure off of [the new owners] having to get all that money just from who’s there now.
“I do understand that there’s supposed to be 65 new houses built in Old Trail,” Wood continued. “Nine times out of ten those proposals will be passed, and if you reject [this expansion] then you’re not really concerned about affordable housing, only about money and upper-class housing. I truly hope that’s not the case in this matter. I love Crozet and have never wanted to move, have always wanted to be here. We have to ask how does Albemarle County become the place where everyone can thrive, not just the wealthy or higher educated.”
Another Crozet MHC resident asked how long the new owners plan to keep the trailer park, as some residents have heard rumors that the new owners promised not to flip the park to developers for at least five years, though the purchase agreement has not been made public. “In this part of Virginia, they don’t like to see trailer parks,” said the resident, “so don’t have me sitting there wasting my time. I really need to know what’s going to happen.”
Shlein pointed to the investments the new owners are making as evidence of their commitment. “We are working with the owners on a mobile home park expansion,” she said. “The improvements like water and sewer connections they have to make are incredibly expensive. The resources that are required, the time that it takes to put forth this application, are a significant investment. I don’t see that as a short-term investment, though I can’t speak for ownership.”
“[The new owners] paid a lot for that property, which is part of my concern,” said CCAC member Allie Pesch. “I wouldn’t be that comforted by a five- or seven-year promise. I support the special use permit, I’m glad for the expansion, but I would love to hear a longer-term commitment.”
The Middle Density residential designation allows for 6-12 units per acre, but up to 18 units per acre if certain affordable housing metrics are met, so a developer could potentially build well over 180 units on the 15-acre parcel.