VARINA, Va. (WWBT) - Henrico County has purchased the historic Wilton Farm property in the east end for $10 million with plans to develop it in the future.
An announcement made Thursday for the 1,184-acre site off Osborne Turnpike, near the Pocahontas Parkway (Route 895), said the site will offer opportunities for future recreation, schools and economic development.
“We intend to take our time and to be good stewards of the land,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Tyrone Nelson said. “In addition to about 550 acres that cannot be developed, Wilton Farm has rich historical and cultural resources that deserve study and interpretation.”
The property located in Varina includes 2.8 miles of river frontage and two lakes.
County leaders said the Henrico Economic Development Authority met with HHHunt and approved an agreement to buy the property for $10 million. HHHunt purchased the property for $18 million in 2005.
According to the company, HHHunt intended to develop the property as “Wilton on the James,” a master-planned community approved for 3,209 residential units, including single-family homes, townhomes, garden condominiums and apartments.
“Opportunities to preserve land for open space on the river and for economic development and future schools do not come along every day,” Nelson said. “This is one of the largest properties ever acquired by Henrico. This monumental decision represents another investment in the quality of life of our residents, and it would not be possible without the support of our entire Board of Supervisors.”
“We see a tremendous value for taxpayers and an exciting opportunity for the county at Wilton Farm,” County Manager John Vithoulkas said. “Centuries ago, Wilton Farm may have seemed like it was located at the ‘World’s End,’ but that’s no longer the case, given its proximity to Route 895 and Osborne Turnpike. We look forward to working with the community to make Wilton Farm another jewel for Henrico that will benefit our residents for years to come.”
According to County leaders, the Wilton Farm property has a vast documented history.
“In 1639, English settlers referred to the area as ‘World’s End’ because of its remote location,” a news release stated. “In the 1740s, the land served as a tobacco plantation and was named Wilton. During the Revolutionary War, American Troops led by Lafayette camped on the property, which has remained largely untouched since then.”
County leaders will now work on putting together a master plan for the site to figure out how it will be used.
“Much of the land, including considerable river frontage, could be set aside for preservation and recreation,” County officials said. “Land near Pocahontas Parkway could accommodate economic development and a museum site, while a smaller portion, off Osborne, could provide sites for an elementary school and a middle school.”
“It’s a dream come true," said Henrico resident Bland Goddin.
She lives within earshot of the farm, and says she used to ride horses with her friends before Route 895 was put in place.
Goddin opposed ‘Wilton on the James’, as she feared it would bring a barrage of construction and perhaps remove the significance of the site, but believes these new plans would only add to the farm’s historical longevity.
"I think that we have gotten a gift that will keep on giving. For me, and for my children,” she adds.
Chairman Nelson says the next step in the process is to form an advisory council, made up of county residents, to approve the projects that will ultimately end up on the site. He expects that council to be formed in early 2020.
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