Concerns Raised Over Future of Northampton Mobile Home Parks


By Stefanie Jackson – When the Northampton planning commission held its regular meeting July 6, it received a memo that raised concerns about the new comprehensive plan and its recommendation, or lack thereof, on mobile home parks.

The planning commission declined to read the memo because the deadline to submit public comments on the comprehensive plan was May 4, over two months ago. However, the memo was entered into the public record.

The memo was submitted by Mary Miller, of Eastville, who was the vice chair of the planning commission from 2003 to 2013.

Mobile home parks had legally conforming status in Northampton since at least 1983, according to Miller’s research.

The comprehensive plan contained language that allowed the creation of a mobile home park floating zone, which permitted new mobile home parks, set standards for mobile home parks and lot sizes, and allowed the addition of parks, playgrounds, recreational areas, daycare centers, fire stations, and churches, Miller wrote.

Northampton County regulated the mobile home parks and ensured they complied with state and federal standards.

The mobile home parks often rented lots and units and “provided a significant housing option for the county’s low-wage workers,” Miller said.

The 2021 comprehensive plan states, “The mobile home cannot be ignored as a low-cost affordable housing option. The County should continue to carefully regulate the placement and construction of these homes. … Mobile homes and other types of manufactured housing must be recognized as a means of meeting low- and middle-income housing needs for Northampton County citizens.”

However, the new comprehensive plan falls short of providing a strategy – such as maintaining a floating zone – to allow mobile home parks to remain legally conforming.

Mobile homes will continue to be legally conforming, but without the floating zone, mobile home parks will become legally nonconforming.

That means new mobile home parks cannot be built and existing ones cannot be expanded.

The mobile homes in the parks can be repaired, rebuilt, or replaced, but if they are abandoned for two years in normal circumstances (or four years after a natural disaster), they cannot be replaced.

This could lead to the eventual elimination of mobile home parks in Northampton County.

Miller said the lack of a mobile home park floating zone is “in direct conflict with the numerous Comprehensive Plan intent statements to support affordable housing, and to support a variety of housing to meet the community needs.”

She requested that the planning commission and the board of supervisors cooperate to amend the comprehensive plan and “provide clear justification” for the mobile home park floating zone to remain in Northampton’s zoning ordinance.

Miller questioned why Northampton’s new comprehensive plan – approved by supervisors June 8 – does not include language to support the continuation of the mobile home park floating zone.

There appeared to be no public support for downgrading mobile home parks to nonconforming status, and it was unclear if mobile home park owners or residents were aware of the downgrade, she said.

Miller provided reasons to keep the mobile home park floating zone:

  • Mobile home parks can provide rental units for workers whose income is too high to qualify for subsidized housing but too low to afford to purchase a home.
  • Northampton County could “conveniently manage health and safety requirements” for mobile home parks.
  • Mobile home park owners and residents could provide playgrounds and recreation areas in their neighborhoods.
  • Owners and residents can be assured that their neighborhoods have longterm legal status.
  • Northampton County can take advantage of a trend on the East Coast of building new, upscale mobile home parks designed for retirement living.

The planning commission declined to read the memo or forward it to the board of supervisors, but public comments on all county-related matters are permitted at supervisors meetings.

Northampton supervisors’ next meeting is Tuesday, June 13.

Previous articleCape Charles Tells Drivers To Hit the Brakes and Slow Down Before Entering Town
Next articleRecognize Indigenous Americans