A solution for Leesburg Mobile Home Park’s dozens of potentially displaced residents could be just a little more than two miles away.
David Gregory, owner of the former Graydon Manor property just west of the Leesburg town limits, has teamed up with former Town Council member Ron Campbell to offer up land to the current mobile park tenants.
Since August when a pending $11 million sale of the 7.2-acre mobile home park community was announced, mobile home park tenants have been a frequent presence at Leesburg Town Council meetings, pleading for their elected officials to find a solution for them to avoid losing their homes altogether, or being forced to move from a home with no equally affordable option nearby.
The Town Council members as recently as last week have emphasized that there was little they could do to stop the sale, and perhaps the residents’ displacement. Gregory and Campbell, whose office also on Graydon Manor land, are hoping to provide an option.
“I think it is clearly economically and socially the right thing to do,” Gregory said. “In a nutshell, I understand the complex nature of the property rights issue versus tenancy and somebody that wants to buy property and improve it. We’re developers; we understand that.”
What he and Campbell are trying to do, he said, is “create an alternative” that protects both buyer and property rights, and doesn’t allow gentrification in Leesburg to continue at the expense of the mostly minority tenants of the Leesburg Mobile Park.
Gregory recently brought on Campbell, who served on the Town Council from 2017 to 2020, to keep him current about social needs that are being unmet. In addition to his time on the council, Campbell is an active presence in the community, founding the Citizens for a Better Leesburg group andwith leadership roles in both the Loudoun NAACP and the Loudoun Freedom Center. Gregory said both his attorney David Culbert and Campbell advised him to look into finding a solution for the mobile home park residents as they were following local media coverage of the fallout over the pending property sale.
Gregory is offering a 7.1-acre piece of his property along Dry Mill Road bordered by the W&OD Trail and the Leesburg Bypass—land crossed by the Leesburg/Loudoun County boundary.
“We are offering this proposal to the members of the Leesburg Mobile Home Park community as a compassionate gesture not a business venture. We will also offer that no rents for lot space would be assessed for five years, giving the community members time to recover from the devastation and economic impact of displacement,” Campbell said in a statement.
The parcel they have in mind is mostly outside town limits, although a sliver of it is in town. In his statement, Campbell calls on elected officials in both the town and the county to amend their zoning ordinances to allow for manufactured homes. According to Campbell, that use is not listed in either ordinance as a permitted use or a use allowed through special exception.
Gregory prefers not to dwell much on the zoning requests, and said the project should be viewed not as an economic request, but as a “social requirement.”
“I want this to be a social movement, not a zoning request. This is not a business deal. This is about investing in families that need financial help,” he said. “I don’t want to be the issue. These families are the issue.”
While both Gregory and Campbell acknowledged that they expect some resistance from both the Board of Supervisors and Town Council, at least one elected official has offered her support. Councilwoman Suzanne Fox said she had recent conversations with Gregory about his proposal, and believes it is an opportunity worth exploring.
“It’s an opportunity for free enterprise to help with an alternative to a government solution,” she said.
Fox said the former Town Council of 2013, the year before she was elected, erred in its adoption of the Crescent Design District which did not take into account the future of the mobile home park, and inevitably made its land much more valuable.
“I don’t think they took the residents into consideration,” she said. “It probably wasn’t blatant. It was probably an oversight. [In creating the Crescent Design District] they made that land very valuable, and it’s land residents don’t own.”
Fox in the past has been criticized by her colleagues on the council for her support of Gregory’s development plans for the Graydon Manor land, which included a request to extend town utilities to the property, and some of those same council members have pointed to Gregory’s past contributions to Fox’s State Senate campaign.
But Fox said one thing doesn’t have anything to do with the other.
“This has nothing to do with Graydon Manor,” she said.
In a statement of support of the project, Fox said, “Shortly before I was elected to the Town Council, Leesburg approved and adopted the Crescent Design District as part of its Zoning Ordinance, which includes the imperiled Leesburg Mobile Home Park. It’s painfully obvious that town leadership failed to consider the impact that the new Crescent Design District might have on the future of the mobile home park and its residents. As direct result of this action, we now have 75 families in the heart of Leesburg who are facing a crisis. They need a solution now. Not in six months, or in a year, or in three years…but right now. After discussing the issue with local businessman David Gregory and former Town Council member Ron Campbell, I believe we may now have the solution that these families desperately need. It is always heartening to see the business community step up for their neighbors, even when governments fail to protect their own residents. I hope to reach out to other business owners and other potential benefactors in the area to give them an opportunity to contribute to this important cause, as relocation costs associated with this plan may be substantial.”
Gregory has also reached out to INMED, a nonprofit with its U.S. headquarters in Sterling that offers a slew of humanitarian programs, about possibly setting up another office on the property to provide assistance to the mobile home park residents, should they relocate to the Graydon Manor property.
“The overall idea is so exciting and so fantastic,” said Jennifer Lassiter Smith, INMED’s director of U.S. programs.
Lassiter Smith said should the plan move forward, INMED would work with each family to respond to its individual situation.
“It’s just not a one-size-fits-all solution,” she said. In the current mobile home community, “some people rent, some own, some live with their parents. On a case by case basis we will help people with the transition and where the gaps are.”
That could include things like helping with transportation solutions, as a move further outside of the downtown area could impact some residents’ access to work, school or other activities, particularly for those who do not have a vehicle.
Lassiter Smith said she has already begun talking with leadership at New Virginia Majority, which has taken an active role in advocating for mobile home park residents and affordable housing solutions across Loudoun County, about some of the possible ways the nonprofit could help residents.
“It’s really important there’s not this sense of false hope,” she said. “I just want to talk about the feasibility before we start talking about specifics with families.”
Still, she can’t help but to express her own excitement for how this could play out for the displaced families.
“We’ve seen so many people say they wish they can help. This is a real thing. We don’t have to wish anymore. Can we do it? I’m really trying hard not to be overly optimistic, but how often do you get this opportunity. I have big hope,” she said.