This has been an ongoing discussion and subject for many meetings and has also had many review periods by local government (I believe since February or March). Some of you may know about this controversial project and others not. What is most interesting about it is that it brings up so many of the best and the worst things about our local living. It shows strengths and weaknesses.
A quick review of strengths includes how beautiful the Northern Neck is. How rich in natural resources and most particularly the rivers and creeks that are filled with wildlife. This is a land of relative calm and not too much traffic. One in which you can stop and feel real natural occurances all the time....they are around every corner. Included in that is the largest bald eagle population on the east coast. And an area where migrating eagles take a stop over because the conditions are great. This is not your standard set of natural beauty, nor a standard set of just the right salinity, old treee growth, privacy etc.
There is a large tract of land...I'll have to check, probably two hundred acres. It is located on the Warsaw side of the Rappahannock River and is upriver (toward Fredericksburg.) It has special significance on a number of levels due to its topography and also its location. The owner of this property has in the past been in negotiations with National Park Service over the sale of it. For whatever reasons these have fallen through and come to no avail. Then enter a consultant and a recommendation for a rezoning application.
Given that Richmond county is challenged since there need to be more jobs and opportunities, this project might seem at first blush to be a benefit to the community. Listen, though, to what is proposed.....700 homes, many of which would be town homes. Then a golf course and an equestrian center as well as a world class restaurant. This in a location that is essentially equi-distant from Oak Grove, Montross and Warsaw. Essentially out in the middle of nowhere. What becomes very very clear to me is that although the owner/resident might thoroughly enjoy their specific location, when it came time to move out to the community at large, they would need to travel perhaps 20 to 30 minutes to the closest store. And these stores wouldn't be anything fancy...they would be your basic country stores. There aren't a half dozen significant restaurants within that half an hour. So what do these people do other than enjoy that one location?
To an outsider it might seem quite simple that of course this would appeal to people. From the outsider perspective I would have to say that it makes perfect sense that a flood of people would come here and buy and it would be a sellers' market all the time. We're close to all sorts of major markets....DC, Northern Virginia, Richmond, Fredericksburg....even people from Annapolis and Norfolk do come here. But the flood of people--that isn't the case. Right now we have sold 68 waterfront homes in the $300,000 to $500,000 price point. This is in the entire Northern Neck and for the period January 1 through October 10. That really isn't a lot of homes.....not when you are talking 700 proposed. If you sold 100 per year it would take 7 years. Not only that these homes aren't waterfront. They are near the cliffs and may or may not have a view (with maybe 30 or 40 steps down to a kayak kind of pier, I believe), but still....if most people from out of the area come here for waterfront, I'd have to ask why would buying into a community like this make sense.
Getting back to another number...an important one.....we have 193 active waterfront residential listings in the four counties right now (with 68 sold). That pretty much says we have close to three years' worth of inventory waiting for the potential buyer to consider. In my experience people come here to have their little piece of paradise. That includes a bit of privacy and the ability to walk down to a beach or walk down to a pier and jump on a boat (their private pier with their own boat)....not being clustered in with all their neighbors...a place truly of their own.
There's no question that Richmond county, and really all the counties of the Northern Neck need more industry and a place for people to work at real careers after they've finished college. I have been here close to 25 years and the lack of real jobs has been an ongoing concern and saga. Two of the speakers at the meeting last week were "20-somethings" and they said something that I hadn't heard before.....they said, we don't need jobs here in Richmond county, what we need are careers. And would the Fones Cliffs development offer any careers? Well the answer was pretty clear....with a golf course and an equestrian facility and a restaurant....what sort of jobs would it bring to the community....as someone else said at the meeting, they weren't sending their kids to college to become a maid.
There probably isn't a perfect solution to all of this at this moment. The Supervisors have decided to continue reviewing this proposal and not make a decision as yet. We do need some sort of shot in the arm to get the county going but this plan isn't it. Maybe there can be a significant modification to the proposal that might work. I don't know. And understand, most of the people who spoke against the proposed development did so because this is the most significant bald eagle location in the East. That is important. Also there was John Smith event and so it has historic signficance right down to the Indians who lived here. Lots to talk about. Lots to consider. Possible run off from a golf course. Possible disturbing of .......it goes on and on. But just speaking practically as a Realtor, we have lots of property to sell and it is what people do buy. Probably we should sell that and not try to start with something which has failed in other locations on the Northern Neck. As I concluded my little two cents at the meeting....in over 20 years I've never picked up the phone and had someone say, hey, can you find me a townhouse?
--Kathryn (Kathryn Murray, principal broker, 804-450-4442 cell)