The Albemarle County Planning Commission recommended approval of a Special Use Permit request for the new owner of the renamed Crozet Mobile Home Community (MHC) at the commission’s June 27 meeting. The mobile home park on Park Road just east of Crozet Park has existed in that location continuously for over 40 years, predating most of the development around it. The 15-acre community currently hosts 73 manufactured homes, and the parcel’s new owners—who acquired the MHC in 2022 for $4 million—would like to add 14 more units to the site.
County senior planner Kevin McCollum explained that because the mobile home park was established before the county’s zoning ordinance, much of the site does not conform to current regulations. “If [the owners] want to make any changes to the overall site or to add units, they will need additional approvals, including a Special Use Permit,” said McCollum. “In addition, the proposal includes several special exceptions that are intended to bring the park into compliance with current regulations.”
Six of the proposed units will be located along Park Road, and eight will fill in the cul-de-sac on Adele Street to the rear of the property. McCollum said that county staff recommended approval of the project, noting that “the proposed use is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, and the additional homes will positively impact affordable housing needs in Albemarle County.” On the negative side, staff pointed out that no recreational amenities have been provided, and that there is no existing or proposed sidewalk along the Park Road frontage of the community.
A sidewalk connection along Park Road—which would span 1,800 feet from east of Crozet Park to Brookwood Road—is identified as the top priority sidewalk project in Crozet in the county’s Comprehensive Plan, and is listed as a “Catalyst Project” in its Implementation Chapter. McCollum said that county staff would be able to require a sidewalk during the site plan phase. However, Kelsey Schlein of Shimp Engineering, representing the applicant in the meeting, said that adding a sidewalk to the MHC plan was cost-prohibitive.
“We completely understand the importance of a sidewalk along Park Road, but we do feel that it’s a bit onerous for 14 manufactured units to carry the cost of that,” said Schlein. “The code says ‘pedestrian walkways or sidewalks’ [are recommended] so we feel there’s a little leeway there that we can work out in the site plan stage. The Crozet Master Plan estimates that 1,800 linear feet of sidewalk would cost between $3 and $8 million. The Crozet MHC frontage of that span is approximately 600 feet, so the estimate for that would be $1 to $2.4 million to provide improvements consistent with the Master Plan. Fourteen mobile home units cannot pay for that, so I think if we have to make improvements to that level, the project will not move forward.”
Commissioner Lonnie Murray, who represents the White Hall District, asked whether a lower grade surface such as a crushed gravel walkway could substitute for a sidewalk. “There’s a lot of neighbors nearby who are opposed to higher density precisely because of the lack of infrastructure such as sidewalks,” said Murray.
County acting planning director Kevin McDermott said that crushed gravel would not meet Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) standards, so VDOT would not do maintenance on that kind of path. “Someone else would have to maintain it and it would not be allowed to be placed in the VDOT right of way,” said McDermott. “Typically, it’s not something we would recommend as a public access sidewalk because of maintenance concerns that could result in safety issues.”
Several Crozet MHC residents spoke during the public hearing section of the meeting, and each expressed doubt as to the necessity of a sidewalk, particularly if its requirement would sink the project entirely. Some residents’ comments echoed concerns they had voiced at a January public meeting on the proposal, during which Allison Wood, who has lived in the Crozet MHC since she was born, said, “If the 14 mobile homes are not approved, a developer will come in, buy the property, and build apartments.”
“Right now, we are the last affordable housing Crozet has,” said Wood at the June meeting. “A lot of the families who are lower income or on disability really don’t have anywhere else to go. As far as the sidewalk issue goes, my brothers and I have walked in the road up to Crozet Park millions of times, and I’m confused as to how one section of sidewalk there is going to help once that part ends. We do have a path access [walking trail] to the park [through the woods to the northeast], and my kids and I like walking through there.”
Crozet Community Advisory Committee Chair Joe Fore called in to the Planning Commission meeting to express the community’s support for the project and to comment on the sidewalk issue. “Whether the improvements need to be a full sidewalk with curb and gutter, perhaps not,” said Fore, “but I would just say that I think crushed gravel would probably not be what members of the community would be looking for, just in terms of the number of people trying to get from some of those neighborhoods to the east over to the park—lots of kids, families with strollers, scooters, bikes—and, of course, as Commissioner Murray mentioned, ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compatibility issues.”
Crozet MHC resident Donna Wood wondered about the county’s requirement for a dedicated recreation area in the development when it is already so close to a park. “Most of the families there go to visit Crozet Park, or we go up to the Lodge in Old Trail or go to the pools or whatever,” said Wood. “We don’t really have a lot of kids that stay in that area [the MHC]. So, to use the money for other improvements inside the park [instead of in the MHC] would be a great idea.”
The applicant also requested more than 20 waivers (special exceptions) to zoning ordinances so that the MHC will be able to “conform” to the regulations as is. These waivers run the gamut from setbacks, building separation, and screening to street design, storage areas, and parking, and the applicant said that efforts to bring the property into compliance might displace some of the current residents. After a lengthy discussion, the commissioners decided not to make a formal motion on the waivers, but to communicate to the Board of Supervisors that they are amenable to accepting all of them.
During her presentation, Schlein took particular issue with the burdensome county requirements for an application involving manufactured (mobile) homes as compared to other types of housing. The MHC property is zoned R6 (six units per acre), and could have added the units “by right” were it not for special permits required for mobile home parks.
“We’re here before you with a simple request … but the process to get here tonight has not been so simple,” said Schlein. “[We went through] two pre-application meetings, three rounds of revisions, compiled a very detailed special exception matrix and then had many more meetings with staff. Throughout this process there was an extensive amount of work involved, and my question is how we got to a place where a manufactured home is considered to have more of an impact than a single-family home, a townhome, or apartment, which are all allowed by right. This extensive evaluation would not have been required if we were proposing townhomes instead of manufactured homes. Some of the required improvements make these types of [mobile home] projects cost-prohibitive, and these regulations certainly were not imagined to be retrofit … to add a few extra units on land available on a property where the [community] already existed.”
Next up for the project will be a hearing at the Board of Supervisors, date and time to be determined.