The City Council on Tuesday unanimously rejected a developer’s proposal to build multi-family homes at a South Military Highway mobile home park.
But a representative for the developer, KZ Properties Inc., said the Providence Mobile Court will still be sold within four months and redeveloped into condo units, resulting in the displacement of more than 100 mostly low-income families.
“Development is going to be happening, whether it’s rezoned or not,” said Jayson Day of Exit Realty Specialists, who said he was representing KZ. “It is a sad situation, it is.”
Providence Mobile Court residents, many holding yellow signs saying “Where Are We Going to Live?” said the council meeting left them with mixed feelings.
“It is a victory. But if what he says is true, we have an uphill battle,” said Katherine Stanley, an 11-year mobile home park resident who sells hot dogs in Norfolk.
After the vote, the developer’s representative said residents would have about a year to find a new home, assuming the sale goes through. Activists with a nonprofit social justice group said they were still hoping the property would not be sold and said they would stick by residents for the long haul.
“We’re not going to stop until we know everyone is adequately housed,” said Lauren Cogswell, a volunteer with the Virginia Organizing Project.
Council members gave a variety of reasons for denying the request – none of them tied to the protests of residents.
“I don’t think it’s a great application,” said Councilman Rick West. “I don’t think we need multi-family homes there.”
Representatives sought a continuation of the vote, but the council wouldn’t bite. The developer’s plan called for building 73 condominiums in a neighborhood called Highland Glen, and Day said KZ Properties will still be able to build single-family homes without rezoning.
The plight of the mobile home park has drawn the attention of local and statewide groups as an example of the disappearance of affordable housing in South Hampton Roads. The city is trying to develop a strategy to help find homes for mobile home park residents displaced by redevelopment.
“For years, these neighborhoods have been targeted for redevelopment with no concern for the residents,” said Teresa Stanley of the Virginia Organizing Project.
Residents have complained that the park’s owner, Robert Dietrich, has misled them about plans to sell the park. Dietrich declined to comment Tuesday and was not at the council meeting.
“We have suffered so much crap,” said Bea Jones, who’s lived in the park for 20 years. “We’re just up in the air.”
Minutes before, Jones told the council that she has always had a place to live. “Now, I’m 62 years old, and I’ve got to worry every day, ‘Are we going to get a notice that we have to move?’ I’ve looked and looked and looked. I can’t find a place that I can afford.”