Prince William County’s status in a national flood program that keeps down insurance rates could be in jeopardy if it allows mobile homes in Woodbridge to be rebuilt in a federally-designated floodway, county officials said.
The county’s Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously decided that the county zoning staff erred in its decision to condemn trailers and bar the property owner from rebuilding — a decision county officials maintain was correct. County officials said Tuesday they want to find out more about their legal options by talking to state and federal regulators.
Religious leaders and residents told board members Tuesday that the mobile home park provides much needed affordable housing in the county, and that the largely impoverished, Latino residents should be able to rebuild and return home.
“Show your residents it is people that matter, not property,” said pastor J. Douglas Duty of Potomac Crest Baptist in Woodbridge.
Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) said the safety of residents was too important to allow them to move back into the area.
“I have great respect for all of you ... and I know your hearts are in the right place,” Stewart said Tuesday. “[But] to put people back in harm’s way, is that compassionate?” If a future flood kills a resident, he said, the loss of life would be on the county’s hands if it allowed the park’s rebuilding.
“Imagine where the moral culpability lies then,” Stewart said.
County officials are talking with state and federal regulators about Prince William’s status in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood program. Those discussions could affect whether the county decides to appeal the BZA’s decision to Circuit Court.
The federal flood program encourages localities to adopt rules and laws that prevent damage from floods and keep residents out of harm’s way when they occur, county officials said. The county’s participation in the federal program allows county residents to receive flood insurance at lower prices, officials said.