Rodney Washington obtained a building permit from Caroline County for his trailer (in orange), but officials from the town of Port Royal have stymied his move to the Rappahannock Mobile Home Park. (Photo by Taft Coghill Jr.)

‘A crushing feeling’: Bowling Green mobile home park residents met with more issues in Port Royal

by | Jun 24, 2024 | ALLFFP, Caroline, Housing

Rodney Washington had an immediate plan in April, after Caroline County General District Court Judge Robert Reibach ordered the remaining occupants of the Hill Mobile Home Park in Bowling Green to vacate the property within 10 days.

Washington had the resources to relocate his trailer to the Rappahannock Mobile Home Park, located 11 miles up U.S. Route 301 in Port Royal. He paid $6,500 to move the trailer and to obtain a building permit, which was issued May 10 by the Caroline Planning Department. 

But while Washington’s trailer sits on Victory Lane at its new location, he is unable to occupy it. 

Instead, he finds himself embroiled in a zoning dispute between the Town of Port Royal and mobile home park owner Stanley Palivoda. 

Port Royal Town Manager Allyson Finchum said the mobile home park is zoned to only hold 33 trailers and the addition of Washington’s home puts it over capacity at 34. Palivoda contends that there are 37 water and sewer hookups onsite and that he is “100% sure” the mobile home park had more than 33 trailers on hand in the past. 

Finchum called county Planning Director Leon Hughes and requested that he not issue any more building permits for the mobile home park. Finchum said that in order for Washington and any other Hill Mobile Home Park residents to relocate there, Palivoda must first remove some trailers — or she will not issue zoning permits. 

“I don’t know how long it will take. It might never get resolved,” Washington said. “One head is fighting against the other and we are in the middle just trying to keep our heads above water. I tell you, it’s a crushing feeling thinking everything is smooth sailing and this pops up and stabs you in the heart. It’s very depressing and stressful just wondering what you’re going to do.” 

Meanwhile, Washington is living with his mother in the Hill Mobile Home Park while her eviction case and others are being appealed in Caroline Circuit Court. After a June 14 hearing, the cases were continued until July 15. 

Earlier this year, the families learned that Homes of America, Inc., the New Jersey-based company that owns the park was shutting it down, and they were subsequently served eviction notices. 

Washington sought to move out first so that he could lay the groundwork for his mother and sister, who also owns a trailer in the park, to follow suit. Palivoda believed he had available lots to accommodate four additional families. Palivoda said he plans to hire a lawyer to fight Port Royal’s stance.

Palivoda said that after Washington obtained a building permit, he hired a company to determine if any other water and sewer lines were present and confirmed that there are. He said there are also footers indicating where previous trailers were located.

The town is not in agreement. 

Alex Long, who was the mayor of Port Royal until he resigned two weeks ago, said he empathizes with those looking to move to the park, but added that with the number of trailers and septic fields in the park, at some point “you’re hurting the people who are already there, and it’s not good for public health and safety.” 

“The only way to allow more homes in is if they remove the ones that are sitting there vacant,” Finchum said. “That is a way to remedy this situation. It is up to the owner how he handles it.” 

Palivoda said it is not feasible for him to remove trailers because of the cost to do so. He said there are unoccupied trailers on site, but he plans to renovate them and rent them out later.  

“Why would I do that?” Palivoda said of removing trailers. “I’m in business to make money just like everybody else. It wouldn’t make any sense and they are expensive to move.” 

State laws strengthen protection 

Washington’s dilemma is indicative of the struggle many mobile home park residents face as one of the last remaining options for affordable housing comes under increased scrutiny in the Fredericksburg region. 

Many of the residents own their trailers but rent the lot on which they sit. 

Palivoda said, from his perspective, it appears many communities are discouraging mobile home parks. Palivoda owns seven, including properties in King George, where he said it is tough sledding to establish a new park. 

“In King George, the zoning for mobile home parks is A-3 and there is very little A-3 property in King George,” Palivoda said. “You’re not going to see any more trailer parks with the current zoning. It would be more honest for them to say, ‘Trailer parks aren’t allowed.’” 

There are 32 mobile home parks with about 2,600 lots in the Fredericksburg area, all in Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties.  

Five of the 13 parks in Stafford — Hidden Valley, Clearview, Crystal Lake, Paradise Estates and The Meadows of Falmouth — are within targeted development areas according to the county’s comprehensive plan.  

County officials said that although Paradise Estates, and its 103 lots, is in the targeted area of the proposed Destination Stafford mixed use development, only county-owned property will be used for that project, and the park is privately owned.

Still, those who follow housing closely in the region expressed concern.

“It’s sad because housing has gotten so expensive,” Palivoda said. “The people that can’t afford to pay $350,000 for a starter home, they can afford a trailer and the cheap lot rent. It really is a [case of] discrimination on income. You can own a trailer cheaper than renting. It’s a real shame. People ought to be able to own their place of living, but the opportunities to do so are just dwindling.” 

New laws passed by the General Assembly that go into effect July 1 will require park owners to provide $5,000 in relocation fees when they sell their park for redevelopment. There is also a $5 million increase in the state budget going toward the Manufactured Home Revolving Loan Fund, which assists nonprofit organizations and resident associations in buying the land before it is sold to someone else. 

Changes were made to the Manufactured Home Lot Rental Act that grant a “right of redemption” to tenants who face eviction for unpaid rent, clarifying the reasons for which a person can be evicted. 

On the federal level, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development started an initiative called the PRICE grant (Preservation, Reinvestment, Initiative for Community Enhancement), a $225 million pool of funds with the aim of increasing affordable housing and repairing existing mobile homes or manufactured home parks. 

None of the state laws apply retroactively to the Caroline families, and Palivoda is skeptical they will make a difference for residents in the future. 

“The law already protects the people that if a trailer park is getting sold, they have the right to come together and buy it,” Palivoda said. “The new law kind of solidified it a little bit more. The thing that [stinks] is there is basically nowhere you can put a trailer park. You’re not seeing any new ones. Nobody will let you do one.” 

Residents remain apprehensive

Washington, meanwhile, is pondering selling his trailer to recoup his moving expenses and finding another place to live. He said it would cost $1,500 to rebuild the porch that was removed before transport to Port Royal, and he doesn’t want to pay for that structure before knowing the outcome of his situation. 

Washington, who has lived in the trailer for more than 20 years — paying it off in the process — is concerned about the cost of buying or renting a home. Renting a three-bedroom home in the Bowling Green area can cost $1,800 per month or more. The median cost of a home in Caroline is more than $340,000, which is the lowest in the Fredericksburg region, according to the Fredericksburg Area Association of Realtors. 

Palivoda said that, in his opinion, mobile home parks are being targeted because many are unsightly. But Hughes, the planning director in Caroline, said the concerns county officials have are not cosmetic but rather centered on safety. 

“I think a lot of the times the units are older and may not be up to current code,” Hughes said. “So, I don’t think there’s anybody that dislikes trailers. I think the issue is people living in safe housing … Sometimes if you go to move them you can’t even move them because they’re so old, they just deteriorate.” 

Washington and the Bowling Green residents acknowledge that their homes aren’t in pristine condition. But owning their trailers in a tight-knit community gave them a sense of pride.  

The appeal hearing provided more time for them to figure out a next step, but given Washington’s issues in Port Royal, hope is fading that they will be able to keep their homes. 

“This is the only park that had available spots in it,” Washington said. “If this doesn’t work out, what are we going to do?” 

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