It would be a first-class mobile home park, with well-kept lawns and 24-hour security, according to the developer, but Prince William County planners and neighbors say it would be an intrusion on the rural residential community of Gainesville.
Last week, the seven-member Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend denial of the proposed 399-unit trailer park because they said it would overburden county roads, sewer lines and public schools. The proposal now goes before the County Board of Supervisors, which has traditionally followed the recommendation of the commission.
"If this rezoning had been for single-family houses, it would have been approved outright," Claude Compton, an attorney for landowner and developer L.R. Cowne, said after the vote. "The residents have been tagging people who live in trailer parks as second-class citizens. There would be no trash, no junk cars up on blocks, no police calls in the middle of the night."
Commission Chairman Harold H. Dutton last week denied that the issue was the desirability of mobile home parks.
"The concern here was over the density of the development, not the type of development," he said the day after the commission vote. "I've nothing against mobile home parks. We have several in the county. Some are quite successful and others have problems with upkeep."
More than 150 neighbors turned up at a public hearing held before the commission voted on the proposed park, which would be on 124 acres on Linton Hall Road in Gainesville, a community in the western, more rural half of the county. They expressed concerns ranging from the fate of their property values to that a small graveyard would be in the path of new sewer lines.
Dutton said the commission prides itself on listening to the concerns of neighbors and, if possible, voting with their wishes. "We are here to serve them," he said. "We don't let the fear of being sued by irate landowners affect our decision."
The commission vote was on whether to rezone the proposed site from an agricultural designation to one allowing moderate density housing. Such a zone change would allow the developer to create a trailer park.
Although the proposed park requires a zone change, it adheres to the county's comprehensive zoning plan adopted last year, which allows four housing units per acre on the site, planners said. The proposed trailer park would have 3.2 units per acre.
Dutton said a trailer park may adhere to the letter of the comprehensive plan but not to its intent.
"The comprehensive plan is two inches thick and full of provisions for the health and safety of the people of the community," he said. "This proposal is not in those best interests."
At the public hearing, county planner Roger Snyder told commission members the 399 units would add 90 students to nearby Tyler Elementary School, which already has a capacity enrollment. He also said the new development would take up one-third of new water and sewer lines planned for Gainesville and would create too much traffic on surrounding roads, some of them unpaved.
Compton said at the meeting that the developer was willing to pave one road fronting on the proposed development and help bear the cost of building water and sewer lines. Prince William also recently closed a small school near the site because of declining enrollment and transfered those students to Tyler, he said.
"We hope the supervisors will really listen to our proposal and give us a better vote," Compton said afterward.