The controversial sale of the Leesburg Mobile Park has been called off, and attention now turns to when, not if, the next buyer will appear, and how residents and local leaders can avoid displacement.
Late last week New Virginia Majority, a statewide advocacy group for marginalized communities including Black and brown people, young people, and working-class women that has been helping to advocate for residents of the mobile home community, sent a press release announcing that prospective buyer Darius Saiedi had decided not to go forward with the purchase of the 75-unit community near downtown Leesburg.
The press release said Saiedi’s reason for not proceeding with the purchase “due to complexities with the county and [his] confidence in being able to work with them to successfully find a resolution to the relocation of the tenants.”
Saiedi has not responded to any calls or messages from Loudoun Now regarding his interest in the property.
Sofia Saiyed, an organizer with New Virginia Majority, said the group had been in contact with Saiedi since late last year, not long after news of the property’s impending sale, and Saiedi’s $11 million purchase offer, broke. Closing on the property was anticipated for Jan. 31, she said. Saiyed said they have been unable to touch base with the current owners of the Leesburg Mobile Park throughout the process, though she acknowledged it is more than likely they will seek another buyer.
With that in mind, Saiyed and other stakeholders, including the mobile park’s residents, are already considering next steps.
“We are all of the same opinion—we assume the owners still want out. We are looking into various options for how to ensure the preservation of the park. In some places nonprofits are able to purchase mobile parks, land trusts have also purchased them, there’s also resident-owned cooperatives where residents can put in an offer and collectively own the park. It’s probably necessary to get funding from different sources. I recognize that’s an obstacle but I don’t think it’s an insurmountable obstacle. We’ve already been in those conversations,” she said.
Leesburg Mobile Park resident Cesar Chavez is also not ready to wave the victory flag and said he and his neighbors are already looking toward future solutions.
“A lot of us are happy that the sale did not go through because since the beginning we have been fighting to stay here in our homes in our current community as a family, but our neighbors and I are still questioning, what’s going to happen now,” he said. “This whole situation has helped us realize that something needs to be done in order for us to not see ourselves in a similar situation again in the future. We as a community cannot let something like this continue to happen to us and we hope that the Town of Leesburg and the county are aware that they can be of huge help to help save the homes and peace of mind of all the families here in the Leesburg Mobile Home Park. We as a community will continue to be united and continue to fight for what needs to be done in order for us to stay in our homes. We will continue to work together to get answers and find solutions to this problem that still has us all questioning our futures.”
Chavez and many of his neighbors had become regular fixtures at Town Council meetings since the sale of the property was announced. Many pleaded with the council to find a solution that would keep them in their homes, which they pointed out was the only affordable option for them in the area.
Mayor Kelly Burk said that, despite the sale not going forward, the council needs to remain involved in finding solutions. Both she and Councilwoman Suzanne Fox acknowledged that updating the new Town Plan, Legacy Leesburg, to include mobile home parks is not enough. Burk said she was looking forward to a meeting with mobile park residents scheduled for this upcoming Monday to continue to vet solutions for the residents, and mentioned several of the options Sayed was exploring, including involving the nonprofit community.
Fox said working with the private sector on solutions for the community was important, but has been vocal about exercising caution regarding a private sale.
“I think there is a role for council and other community leaders to play to identify and work with a potential buyer who is amenable to keeping the residents in place. This is really a job for the private sector. While the first instinct for a government body faced with a problem always seems to be to throw taxpayer dollars at the issue, I think the real leaders will consider all options, including leveraging relationships and working closely with the private sector,” she said.
Fox also alluded back to an earlier point she had made about the impact that the adoption of the Crescent Design District had years ago, and how not acknowledging the mobile home park at the time played a part in creating the opportunity for redevelopment of the property. In a sketch plan he had discussed in the fall with town staff, Saiedi had indicated he was eying a redevelopment of the property for an 80-unit townhouse community.
“Clearly, it was a major mistake to fail to consider the impact of the Crescent Design District to the future of the Mobile Park community, and now the collateral damage is evident. Instead of being proactive when we had a chance, we are now in the position of having to be reactive. Council should take this as an object lesson on the importance of considering the unintended consequences of the actions we take…and particularly actions as sweeping and significant as the Crescent Design District,” she said.
Vice Mayor Marty Martinez also said the council needs to take a “proactive approach” with the property moving forward, in anticipation of future interest in the property.
“I think what we need to do is really consider that property and weigh what we can do with it to protect the residents, all the way from rezoning to maybe buying it. It all depends. What we cannot do is sit on our hands and let this problem happen again,” he said.
Fox said the current situation is an example why the town needs to “get serious and creative about affordable housing.”
“We need to re-think how it is administered. Our current system does not work,” she said.