Editor: Last week’s Letter to the Editor concerning White’s Ferry demands a response. No one would disagree that re-opening Whites Ferry would be beneficial; however, it is a complete misrepresentation to blame the Rockland owners rather than the purchaser of the ferry for the stalemate, much less the governing bodies in the area.
The owners are as anxious as anyone to have the ferry continue in operation. However, the new ferry owner has demanded a permanent easement in exchange for paying a fraction of the value lost by permanently giving up valuable shoreline. The Rockland owners are entitled to fair compensation for their loss of value, and have proposed the small fee per car as a workable compromise instead of tying up their land in perpetuity whether or not the ferry operates. However, the new ferry owner is believed to have his sights on buying the entire farm, and a permanent easement of so much river frontage would lower the land value substantially to his advantage. He has been unyielding in his demand for the easement and for one at a low value. There are other arrangements that can be put in place to assure the ferry will be able to operate, without resorting to a permanent easement.
The Rockland owners have also stated that they are trying to maintain the land as long as possible the way it has been for several hundred years—a historically important working farm. Rockland, with its approximately 500 acres and nearly a mile of gorgeous riverfront, is prime real estate for development. We should all thank the owners that they are eschewing the millions that the property would bring to instead preserve an important slice of Leesburg’s history.
As for the supposed dereliction of the local governing entities in their reluctance to intervene in this situation, it is against our system of commerce, private enterprise, and land ownership to claim that the Rockland owners are owed nothing for use of their land simply because they do not operate the ferry. If the persons who are pushing for the county to take the land through eminent domain think that this will lower their personal costs, please think again: eminent domains are not free, and the cost will be borne by the taxpayers of Loudoun County or it may be the county who is asking for a percent of the Ferry revenue. Also, it is very questionable that a government can exercise eminent domain for the benefit of a private citizen such as the ferry owner, as is the case here. The “taking” would potentially be tied up in litigation for years.
Linda Taylor, Middleburg