The owner of a Woodbridge mobile home park is asking Virginia’s highest court to overrule Prince William County’s decision not to restore electricity to nine mobile home sites on his property.
Holly Acres Mobile Home Park, owned by Henry “Hank” Ridge, was inundated after Tropical Storm Lee passed through in September and dozens of residents were left homeless. The county condemned homes closest to the water and demolished many of them, but nine homes were left standing.
Ridge’s lawyers argue in a brief filed with the state Supreme Court this week that the county has unfairly barred residents from nine mobile homes left standing.
The Supreme Court brief argues that the county is acting irresponsibly by allowing those homes to decay further. By not restoring electricity the county “ensures the loss of additional property through decay, mildew and lack of ability to maintain the homes,” the brief says.
County officials have argued that it would be unsafe to allow residents to move back in and could put Prince William County in violation of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regulations — an outcome they say has a host of consequences.
A Prince William Circuit Court denied Ridge’s original “injunction” petition in March, prompting this week’s appeal.
Mark Moorstein, the mobile home park owner’s lawyer, said the Supreme Court “has a tremendous amount of leeway.” Judges can choose to rule on the “injunction” request immediately, reject it, send it back to a lower court or wait for Prince William’s response and then rule, he said.
Jason Grant, a county spokesman, said that nothing is preventing the mobile home owners from moving their mobile homes. He said they may not be in good enough condition to do so.
“There’s nothing that’s preventing the owners of those mobile homes…from hitching them to a trailer and towing them off,” Grant said. The issue is allowing people to live in a federally-designated floodway, which would run the county afoul of federal regulations, he said.
While Ridge’s lawyers are asking for immediate action on the nine units, the overall issue of whether Ridge can rebuild in a federally-defined flood zone and whether the county did enough to prevent flooding may be settled by the courts this summer.
The mobile home park has sued the county for $8 million, and the county has appealed a decision by an independent zoning panel that said it was wrong to prevent residents from returning. Those lawsuits have been combined and are scheduled for hearings in July.