Eco Discovery Park loses bid for Jamestown Yacht Basin, but future of property is unclear

JAMES CITY

Eco Discovery Park was unsuccessful in its bid to purchase the Jamestown Yacht Basin Property Tuesday night, after the Board of Supervisors rejected a motion to sell the land to the park owner Steve Rose.

But what will happen to the land the park sits on remains to be seen, as the Board of Supervisors did not say yes or no to several alternative proposals to purchase the park, including one from a group of investors led by Marty Moliken, the owner/operator of James River Marina in Newport News.

The park, which has operated on the property since 2012, will close its doors on June 1, according to Rose. Rose had made an offer to purchase the property, valued at $3.5 million by county assessors, for $500,000. Rose's proposal included selling conservation easements to finance the property.

But several supervisors, including Supervisors Jim Kennedy and Kevin Onizuk, questioned whether or not Rose would be able to deliver on the terms of the proposal.

James City County Board of Supervisors Chairman Michael Hipple asked whether it would be prudent to wait for one year and get more information from county planning staff and charge County Administrator Bryan Hill with developing a plan to market the property.

But Supervisor John McGlennon said he felt the park had waited long enough and had the best possible proposal for purchasing the land.

"What we’ve got in front of us is a very heavy outpouring of support for an existing facility that has its flaws but has some great positives associated with it," McGlennon said. "I think I’ve gotten as much correspondence on this matter as I have in the last several years. This proposal is the most consistent with the Board guidance.

"We owe it to Mr. Rose to give hm an answer tonight as to whether or not we’re going to accept his offer. I think that he has not been treated well in this process," McGlennon said.

McGlennon moved for the county to come to an agreement with the park for a sale contract, after a 30 day waiting period for the county to seek additional assurances from Rose that terms of the sale would be met.

McGlennon and Supervisor Jim Kennedy voted in favor of the motion, but Hipple, Onizuk and Jones voted against it. No motions were made over Hipple's suggestion for the one year waiting period, which would have allowed Rose to stay on the property with Eco Discovery Park.

When asked what would happen next with the park, Adam Kinsman, acting county attorney, said James City would begin running the park on June 1. Onizuk said the Board of Supervisors will continue to weigh options on selling the land, but said they weren't obligated to take immediate option.

"We do not want to continue to own the property," Onizuk said. Onizuk said he was also concerned that the park did not have solid enough finances to fund necessary capital improvements in the park.

"One of my biggest concerns is the maintenance, the improvement costs is going to run into the millions," Onizuk said. "I wanted to vote for him more than anything," Onizuk said.

Several other proposals were considered from groups seeking to buy the property, but none were close to the $3.5 million valuation of the park and all of the alternates included residential development, something some Board of Supervisors members said they would not support.

The other offers, from real estate investor John Franklin,  for $650,000, and one from Swan Landing L.L.C. for $825,000 to buy the property were not given much discussion from the Board Tuesday evening. The latter proposal would include 65 to 70 townhomes, as well as three restaurants and other development.

The alternative proposal from Moliken, who was represented by local real estate developer Chris Henderson, would be for $1 million. Henderson gave an overview of the proposal at Tuesday night's meeting. He outlined several reasons he thought would make the offer the best, including improved public access to the water.

"It provides additional construction jobs and longtime employment opportunities," Henderson said. " Its places the property in the hands of an experienced marina operator who is well capitalized and capable of completing the plan of development. The proposal provides for less intensive residential development than competing proposals," Henderson told the Gazette. The proposal would include 24 residential units.

But Hipple told the Gazette Henderson and Moliken's proposal could not be considered on Tuesday evening by supervisors because it was not discussed during the initial public hearing, which had been closed.

Although Rose said the park would shut down operations he didn't rule out the possiblity of purchasing the land in the future. The marina, which contains more than 80 boats, will continue to stay open under the county's operation.

"There's no real plans at this point," Rose said. "We were optimistic coming in tonight."

Bogues can be reached by phone at 757-345-2346.

 

 

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