Nearly a year after approving the sale of the Winton Country Club and Golf Course to Petersburg-based Waukeshaw Development, Inc., the company is asking the Amherst County Board of Supervisors to amend the agreement to have a conservation easement become optional rather than required.
The board decided during its Nov. 6 meeting to table the matter for further review by the county’s attorney. In late 2018 the board voted to sell the 286-acre property, now known as Winton Farm, which had been in the county’s possession for about 51 years following a land donation, to Waukeshaw Development for $800,000.
A component of the deal included a conservation easement of about 70 acres to preserve open space, a feature Waukeshaw owner David McCormack has publicly said would remain in place at Winton as the site redevelops.
County Administrator Dean Rodgers said the company sought the conservation easement to obtain tax credits but recently found it could not receive the money if the easement is not voluntary. Rodgers is asking the county to amend the agreement to make the conservation easement optional rather than mandatory.
Rodgers said in a written report on the matter the proposed measure has little downside to the county as the property already is restricted under zoning and as long as it remains a golf course it will be taxed at full value rather than at its land use value. The amendment also preserves Winton Farm’s obligation to convey a tract for fairgrounds, which would be used for the Amherst County Fair, to the county by July 1, 2021.
Supervisors recently authorized a planned unit development (PUD) zoning designation for the Winton site on Virginia 151 in northern Amherst County. Rodgers said switching the conservation easement from required to optional would not change the county’s ability to control the property’s planned uses under that form of zoning.
Prior to the property’s sale, Winton had been assessed at $5 million according to the county’s online GIS records, but Rodgers has said it was professionally appraised at $2 million. Rodgers has said the $800,000 price tag is what Waukeshaw Development wanted to pay after gifting approximately 70 acres back to the county for a fairground, setting aside 20 acres for a potential retirement center and moving ahead with the conservation easement.
The county for the past two years has held the Amherst County Fair at a site on Sweet Briar Drive off Stage Road near U.S. 29 Business in Amherst but Rodgers said moving it to Winton is more cost-effective and efficient.
Rodgers told supervisors the county has an oral agreement with McCormack to have the fair at Winton and the two parties are working out those plans. Chairman Jimmy Ayers inquired about a Virginia Department of Transportation study to find the Winton property suitable to hold the event from a safety standpoint.
Ayers said the board wants to ensure the roads are conducive to drawing thousands to the Clifford community. “We do not want to jeopardize the life of any individual attending that event,” Ayers said.
Rodgers said the county has met with VDOT and has reviewed maps and plans and so far no significant roadblock to relocating the fair has been identified. He said the county has also spoken with surrounding landowners about using offsite property for parking if needed.
“At this point there’s nothing yet that’s a showstopper,” Rodgers said of planning for next year’s event at Winton.
Should there be excessive heat, as the event has been held in August the past two years, an advantage of having it at Winton is more shaded areas, Rodgers said. If there is excessive rainfall, the county has identified established areas for people to park so that wouldn’t take place on the golf course in such conditions, he said.
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.