There were “glimmers of hope” in the White’s Ferry talks in the Montgomery County Council’s Transportation and Environmental Committee meeting Monday, MoCo Council President Evan Glass (D-At-Large) said.
“From here, I’m hopeful that we can make meaningful progress,” Glass said in a Monday press conference. He declined to give a more specific timeline.
White’s Ferry, which transported commuters across the Potomac River between Poolesville in Montgomery County and Leesburg in Loudoun County, Virginia, has been closed since December 2020. White’s Ferry has operated since about 1786.
The ferry closed due to a legal dispute between then-ferry owner Herb Brown and Rockland Farm.
The 2020 court case, Rockland Farm LLC, et. al. v. White’s Ferry Inc., originated from a dispute involving Historic Rockland, a historic estate in Leesburg often used as a wedding and event space.
In the lawsuit, the farm claims that White’s Ferry violated a 1952 agreement by removing a retaining wall and replacing it with another. White’s Ferry argued that its actions were justified because the areas where it operates are considered public rights of way.
The Loudoun County Circuit Court ruled that White’s Ferry had no right to use Rockland’s land without an agreement, but the farm allowed the ferry to continue operating as long as it provided “fair compensation” to Rockland.
Glass said that Chuck and Stacy Kuhn, who purchased the ferry and the Maryland landing site in February 2021 from Herb Brown, have reiterated their offer to sell the ferry to the Montgomery County government if that is what it takes to open it back up.
Libby Delvin, property owner of Rockland Farm, which is at the ferry’s landing site in Virginia, “mentioned a few other suggestions that she would be amenable to,” Glass said.
Negotiations between the parties have failed multiples times over the last few years, including in March when Chuck Kuhn announced that his joint $1.1 million bid for the Virginia landing site—a bid “well above” the land value, he alleged—was rejected by the owners of Rockland Farm.
In hopes of making progress, Glass said that “We are going to shift this public conversation back into a private negotiation.”
Despite the discussions being private, Glass said he wanted residents to be aware of what is going on with the ferry.
“Today’s conversation is a marker to let everybody know where everybody stands,” Glass said.
Glass emphasized the urgency with these negotiations because the negative impacts of the White’s Ferry closure have been significant, he said.
“Tens of millions of dollars are being lost in economic activity. Millions of miles are being added to our roadways, producing more carbon emissions,” Glass said. “So, this is not good for our economy. This is not good for our environment, and we need to find a resolution ASAP.”
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