Combined Offer Rejected by Virginia Landowners

Combined Offer Rejected by Virginia Landowners

Offer could have enabled Whites Ferry to reopen in 30 days

White’s Ferry owners report that they worked closely with the State of Maryland, Commonwealth of Virginia, Montgomery and Loudoun counties, including their economic development authorities and transportation departments, and previous Ferry owner Herb Brown, to develop a proposal to purchase the Virginia landing site from Rockland Farm in Virginia in an effort to get the ferry reopened for its nearly 1,100 daily users. 

Rockland Farm owners rejected the bid — which White’s Ferry owners say was well above the land value. This rejection caused White’s Ferry owners to pursue selling the land and operation to Montgomery County.

“We have run out of options and will now seek to sell the ferry land and operations to Montgomery County so it can work to invoke eminent domain and acquire the Virginia landing site. This is not what we had hoped, but we understand the importance of White’s Ferry to the region’s economy—and the ferry needs to get moving again,” said Chuck Kuhn, owner of White’s Ferry.

The proposal was submitted by the two counties to Rockland Farm in January. The plan had called for Rockland Farm to sell the 1.4 acres landing site for $1.1 million, well above the appraised value for the flood plain land. The offer included funds from White’s Ferry’s owners, both Montgomery and Loudoun counties, and additional funds from Herb Brown, the original ferry owner. Under the proposal, the landing site would be limited to public use and passage along White’s Ferry Road including potential modifications to facilitate vehicle travel, pedestrian and bicycle passage, or improved ferry operations.

Chuck and Stacy Kuhn bought the ferry in February 2021 to help protect this important Potomac River crossing. The purchase included the ferry, the store, and the Maryland shoreline that supports the ferry operation.  Established in 1786, the Ferry ceased operation in December 2020 after the previous owner Herb Brown could not come to terms with Virginia’s Rockland Farm. The farm’s proposed price of 50 cents a car each way would have resulted in a 50% reduction in operating income, making the ferry business unviable. In addition, the farm's stipulation that it could shut down the ferry at any time without notice made it too risky. Since purchasing it, the Kuhns have been working with Rockland Farm and the local and state municipalities to find a good faith resolution.

“We needed an agreement that we could build a business model around. Owning landing rights would enable us to understand and manage ferry costs so that we could offer the best product at a price the users can afford,” added Kuhn.

The economic impact of resuming ferry operations (based on travel time savings, travel cost savings, safety savings, the value of emissions avoided, and the value of trips not taken) would be over $9 million this year alone and could result in a travel time savings that equates to up to $1.7 million a year, according to a Montgomery County Department of Transportation study. While working through the efforts to regain landing rights, the Kuhns invested in needed upgrades and repairs, ensuring that the ferry could reopen within 30 days of a possible agreement.