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Holly Acres owner sues Prince William County

Sunday - 1/22/2012, 7:32pm  ET

hollyacresfile.jpg
Maria Caranza watches as crews demolish homes in the Holly Acres Mobile Home Park in Woodbridge, Va. in October. (WTOP File Photo)

Max Smith, wtop.com

WOODBRIDGE, Va. - The owner of a mobile home park decimated by flooding from Tropical Storm Lee is suing Prince William County for $8 million.

Hundreds of people lost their homes at the Holly Acres Mobile Home park in Woodbridge when the storm swept through in September.

Prince William County stepped in to keep the homes from being rebuilt, because of concerns that the spot is too dangerous and that rebuilding could impact the county's participation in federal flood insurance programs.

Mark Moorstein, a lawyer for property owner Hank Ridge, says he wants the county to either pay compensation for lost rent and other income, or allow the mobile home park to be rebuilt.

"Essentially what we're arguing is that the claim by the county that they couldn't allow us back in because of the regulations, we think is a complete red herring," says Moorstein.

"The county has known about the flooding and culvert problems for many many years, and has done nothing about it, and has decided to effectively eliminate problem by eliminating residents from the problem area," he adds.

The lawsuit charges that a railroad berm and culvert maintained by CSX is not up to the job of protecting property in the area, and the risk of flooding has gone up because of development upstream. Holly Acres is along the Marumsco Creek.

Ridge has also filed a response to the county's appeal of a Board of Zoning Appeals ruling that the affected homes should be allowed to be rebuilt. Moorstein says he'll likely move to consolidate the response and lawsuit into one case later this week.

The lawsuit also alleges that the county is discriminating, because so many residents of the park are minorities, mostly Hispanic.

Volunteers with the Woodbridge Workers Committee who have been working with the families say many of those displaced, are still staying with friends or relatives more than four months after the storm.

"We still have about half of the families or more that still have no permanent housing," says Nancy Lyall, a volunteer with the committee.

Moorstein says there have been some discussions about allowing the families to join the lawsuit against the county, but that they would have to have the money to pay for lawyers.

But Lyall says a key reason many have not found permanent homes is the lack of affordable housing in the county.

The affected families were eligible for low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)