The former owner of White’s Ferry said the owners of the Virginia landing along the Potomac River had to come up with a reasonable easement proposal to reopen the ferry, otherwise the Loudoun County Supervisory Board would have to consider taking control of the ferry. landing.
Herb Brown, whose family has owned the ferry since 1946, broke its silence on the matter by submitting a letter to the board of directors outlining its explanation of the events that resulted in a standoff before it was sold to current owners Chuck and Stacy Kuhn.
“Our only goal is to see this boat work again,” Brown told The Times Mirror. “Even though I sold it, I’m doing everything I can to open this boat.”
As previously reported, the Kuhns said they believed continued negotiations between themselves and the owners of the Virginia landing at Rockland Farm would ultimately prove fruitless, as the parties found themselves deadlocked in their talks to reopen. ship service on the Potomac River.
The remarks followed a public presentation of the Potomac River Ferry Study – jointly funded by the counties of Loudoun and Montgomery, Maryland.
Supervisors urged owners to reach an agreement to reopen the service before the board examines other options for the popular ferry service. The closure has impacted commuters, but also businesses on both sides of the Potomac since it closed in December 2020.
The ferry system was shut down for nearly a year following a broken ferry cable and a Virginia Circuit Court notice in a private lawsuit regarding the use of private land for the disembarkation of the ferry to Virginia.
Brown said the cost of replacing the cable is around $ 8,000, double what it cost in 2010.
The new owners of White’s Ferry seek to ensure that the heads of county and state wield eminent domain, which would give control of the disembarkation to the respective governments.
Rockland Farm, which owns the Virginia landing, objected to the idea.
The Kuhns said Rockland Farm’s repeated demands for $ 2 million for the parcel of land that constitutes the landing site, or 50 cents per car each way, as well as what the Kuhns called unacceptable conditions have made negotiations impossible.
Devlin, who said Brown’s letter contained misinformation and several inaccuracies, reiterated his offer to include an arbitrator in the discussions.
“The bottom line is if Chuck Kuhn and Herb Brown really believe that I am unfair in my request for $ 0.50 / vehicle to use the Rockland Landing, why don’t they accept my offer of binding arbitration? “Devlin said in an email to The Times-Mirror. “That way a neutral third party can decide what is fairer. “
Devlin did not immediately clarify his claim that Brown’s letter contained inaccuracies.
Brown said operating the ferry would not be viable under Rockland’s conditions. He said the cost of replacing the ferry would cost the same to buy the pier.
Since the ferry closed, the former owners have also had to reimburse more than 400 customers for their commuter ferry passes, with each round-trip pass costing $ 4.
“Based on requests from Libby and Peter [Brown] demands, they will never come to a resolution, ”he said. “The ferry can’t afford what she asks.”
He said operating the ferry is a tough business and the cost of cables, machinery and ferry workers have driven costs up. In addition, he said the income tax returns made by Libby Devlin, director of Rockland Farm LLC, were also incorrect.
Brown said Devlin reported that the ferry brought in $ 750,000 a year, but that the 75-year-old White’s Ferry Company’s income came from several sources. He said the majority of White’s Ferry Inc.’s revenue came from sources other than the ferry.
Brown said White’s Ferry Inc. had reserves invested to replace the boat when needed, store income, picnic area rental, boat rentals and outside investment income.
“The money just isn’t there,” Brown said.
“With people working from home, the traffic is not like it used to be,” he said. “And that’s what happened to us in 2020, the number of riders has dropped by about a third.”
In a November 19 statement, ferry owners first presented their offers to Rockland Farm in exchange for renting and / or purchasing the disembarkation site.
The Kuhns offered $ 13.5 million for the farm, which Rockland Farm in turn made no counter-offer and ultimately rejected.
In addition, the Kuhns offered to donate the ferry and the landings to the respective governments.
The owners of Rockland Farm offered several options to end the dispute, including monthly or annual freight charges per vehicle with a long-term lease; have the vehicle count kept by a neutral third party; or negotiate transit charges independent of the number of vehicles.
The farm’s pleas were, however, rejected. Devlin said the owners of the farm have asked for 50 cents for each vehicle passing through the farm’s landing stage along the Potomac River as part of a deal to reopen White’s Ferry.
Devlin said Rockland Farm made a similar offer to Loudoun and / or Montgomery counties in August, but the county had not decided on any options it would have received.
Devlin said Rockland also offered to buy the ferry at the price Chuck Kuhn had paid for it.
She said she was surprised when the Kuhns made a contract to take possession of the ferry in February after the owners of the farm began negotiations to buy the ferry for $ 3 million.
Terms of the sale were not disclosed, according to an earlier Times-Mirror report.
As for Rockland’s offer, she believed that the request for 50 cents per vehicle was reasonable given her understanding of operating revenues.
She said a revenue stream for the landing would help support Rockland’s operations.
Loudoun County District Attorney Leo Rogers told The Times-Mirror last week that his office was examining all options for the council. No timetable has been set.