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Beach to market town’s property

The Colonial Beach Town Council has taken a step toward selling the vacant Eleanor Mobile Home Park, nearly 2 acres near the Potomac River.

In a bid to end a nearly decadelong debate over the property, officials of the cash-strapped town voted Thursday night to market the property.

After a heated discussion, council members Gary Seeber, Pete Bone, Tommy Edwards and Mayor Mike Ham voted in favor of marketing the 1.89 acres. Council members Wanda Goforth, Jim Chiarello and Linda Brubaker opposed the proposal.

The 4–3 vote authorizes Town Manager Val Foulds to begin seeking proposals for the property immediately.

If sold, the money would go into the town’s capital improvement fund to address issues such as paving streets.

In June, the property was valued at $1.2 million. A real estate appraiser told the council that subdividing the land into 12 single-family home lots would bring the town the most money.

At the height of the real estate boom in 2005, the property was appraised at $2.7 million, a jump from the 2004 appraisal of $1.7 million.

The town has owned the land on Irving Avenue since Colonial Beach was incorporated in 1892. Over the years it evolved into the town’s trailer park with 48 spaces.

In 2006, a lot in the trailer park with a 20-mile view of the Potomac rented for just $225 per month.

However, the town stopped leasing spaces to tenants in 2005. Beach officials began discussing the sale of the property for water-view homes as a way to reduce town debt and increase property-tax revenues.

In 2007, there were 25 trailers in the park. Six of those trailers were permanent units and the rest were summer and weekend residences.

The town began evicting trailer residents in 2009. All residents were vacated by August 2010, but by then the recession halted any talk of selling the property.

In 2012, the council asked the Planning Commission for a recommendation on what to do with the land.

The council held a public hearing in April on the future of the property. That meeting revealed division among council members and town residents about what to do with it.

“Despite the critical need for revenue, I’m in opposition because it would be a shortsighted return,” town resident Linda Moniz said Thursday.

Instead of selling the land now, the town should look to the future when the land could bring more revenue or “an amazing business idea.”

“This is so much more important than an old building because it’s nonrenewable. This is a land resource and this land belongs to the town,” she said.

Goforth, who created her own committee to discuss what to do with the property, agreed.

“We will never have the opportunity to buy back the waterfront,” she said.

Bone said the council’s decision to market the property only implements a discussion period.

“Once and if a proposal is presented, the town is required to have a public hearing regarding the sale of public property. This is not that,” he said.

Chiarello was also against marketing the land.

“When was the last time the town demonstrated its ability to market certain aspects of the town?” he asked.

He said the public opinion on the land’s future has not been properly measured.

“The people of this town should be the deciding factor,” Chiarello said.

Regina Weiss 540/374-5444

rweiss@freelancestar.com

 

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