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Why has the County decided to sell the farmhouse?
The County Board has determined, in light of the high cost of restoring the farmhouse to the point where it could be accessed by the public, that the best way to preserve the farmhouse is to sell it to a private buyer – with the provision that anyone who buys it must maintain its historic integrity. The County’s goal is to preserve the historic character of Reeves farmhouse and to preserve the two acres of open space, the raised gardens, sledding slope and milk shed. This solution is intended to breathe new life into the farmhouse while preserving all the current public uses.
How can the County be sure that the farmhouse will be preserved and not just torn down?
All of the Reeves property is protected as a Local Historic District. This special zoning overlay was approved by the County Board in 2004. Any exterior alterations to any of the buildings and grounds will first require review by and approval from the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board prior to being undertaken. The local historic district will still exist on the property no matter who owns it. As part of the sale of the Reeves farmhouse, the County also will place a preservation easement on the house to ensure that it is protected in perpetuity and can never be demolished.
How will the sale of the house impact the public’s use of the remaining land?
Only the farmhouse and access leading to it will be sold. The remaining acreage (including the learning garden and sledding hill) will remain as parkland. Basically anything that the public is doing outside the house will still be available.
How does the County intend to use the money that was allocated for the farmhouse?
There is $410,000 left from FY 2013 closeout funds authorized for Reevesland. This funding will pay transaction costs related to creating a conforming parcel and will be used to enhance urban agriculture on the two acres that the County will retain.
What does the County plan on doing with the proceeds from the sale of the farmhouse?
Any proceeds from the sale, less the costs of sale, commission and settlement fees will go to the Park Land Acquisition Fund.
Are you getting an appraisal for the property to determine how much it is worth?
The County will obtain a professional appraisal of the farmhouse and final lot area, taking into account existing conditions and restrictions. That information will serve as a baseline indicator of fair market value to assist the County in listing the property and negotiating the terms of its sale.
What factors will be considered in selecting the successful buyer?
The County will work with a licensed realtor on the sale of the property. If multiple offers are received, the County will consider several factors including, but not limited to, the offered price, the compatibility of the intended use with the park and surrounding neighborhood, the prospective buyer’s expressed commitment to restoration of the historic farmhouse, and the financial resources available to the prospective buyer.
Why did Arlington buy the property?
The County bought the property to enlarge the heavily-used Bluemont Park and provide additional recreational opportunities to County residents. The acquisition of the 2.4-acre property allowed the County to protect the much-loved sledding hill, and to preserve the remaining portion of the County’s last dairy farm (which ceased operation in 1954).
Was the farmhouse in good condition when the County purchased it in 2001?
When the County purchased the house in 2001, the farmhouse was in a condition typical of a historic residence that had not received any major maintenance in more than 50 years. There were a number of significant and costly problems that still exist:
- The kitchen wing lacks crawl space or foundations, with the wood floor structure set on grade. Most of the farmhouse is set too close to the grade;
- Evidence of termite damage;
- Significant amounts of flaking lead-based paint on the interior and exterior of the house; asbestos on the piping;
- Significant water damage to the interior, caused by serious leaks in the past from the roof and flashing;
- The farmhouse lacks air conditioning, the oil-fired furnace is obsolete and the electrical system is inadequate for modern use.
Since the County purchased the property, has it done anything to keep it from deteriorating?
Yes, the County has made repairs to the farmhouse to protect its historic integrity while the use of the property was determined. The County has spent more than $50,000, including removing some of the lead-based paint from the exterior; removing asbestos-covered piping; painting the exterior; replacing the roof; replacing the front and rear porches; replacing damaged windows; installing chimney caps; improving drainage; repairing gutters and downspouts; and sealing leaks. The County has routinely baited for rodents since 2003. At least an additional $10,000 also has been spent to protect the historic milk shed, including stabilization of the building and replacement of the roof.
Why is it so expensive to renovate the farmhouse for public use? I have heard estimates of $2 million to $2.5 million.
Those cost estimates are based on a facility that would be used by the public, which means it would need to fully comply with all current building code, zoning ordinance and storm water requirements. It would be much less expensive to renovate the house for private use while keeping within its historic designation.
For public use the following is needed:
- strengthening the floors and other structural modifications;
- providing fire separation;
- providing two means of ingress/egress;
- making the doors and restrooms ADA compliant;
- removing lead-based paint;
- upgrading utilities;
- HVAC system;
- interior finishes;
- meeting all the storm water requirements
Additionally, to be used by the public, the site would need to have adequate ADA compliant parking and access. The estimated costs also include project management, architect and engineering design, permitting and third-party testing. The County’s initial cost estimates for renovating the farmhouse for a public use were compiled by a consultant back in 2011 and were projected at $1.3 million. Inflation, new storm water requirements and more detailed information on the structural requirements have increased the estimated costs.
Did the County try to find a partner to assist in restoring the farmhouse?
Yes, based on the recommendations from a County Board-appointed Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of Reevesland, the County issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) in 2012 with the goal of finding a partner willing to invest the necessary capital dollars to rehabilitate the farmhouse and use the building for programs. No proposals were received that met the RFP requirements. The County issued a second opportunity for partners through a Request for Interest (RFI) in 2013.The RFI included a broader range of options and considered some County financial resources toward rehabilitation expenses. Five responses were received, ranging from single-family residential to urban agriculture to educational uses. All five respondents were interviewed. In the end, none of the five proposals was selected, as the respondents were unwilling to commit capital funds or they offered limited opportunity for public access.
Has the County been meeting with the Reevesland Learning Center to discuss their ideas for the farmhouse?
Yes, staff from the County Managers Office, Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, and Department of Environmental Services have met with the Reevesland Learning Center (RLC) numersous times over the past six years. The County has continued to stress with the Reevesland Learning Center that it was seeking significant capital contributions from a partner, which is why the RLC proposal is not seen as a viable proposal. The County has examples of other successful partnerships with nonprofits, including Phoenix Bikes, Arlington Arts Center, Marymount University and George Washington University, who brought significant capital contributions to their projects.
Were there any other viable partners?
The Reeves Farm Conservation Society, Inc. (RFCSI) nonprofit corporation was incorporated in September 2015 and received 501(c)(3) designation in February 2016. Staff worked with RFCSI to share background information; meetings were held with various staff from parks and recreation, building code, zoning, and historic preservation to explore ideas and answer questions; and a draft Letter of Intent was developed for a ground lease. RFCSI developed a draft business plan for the project that they shared with County staff and the neighborhood in May 2016. In June 2016, RFCSI notified the County that they would not be pursuing reuse of the farmhouse. They have disbanded as an organization and in December 2016 they donated all remaining funds they had raised to the Arlington Community Foundation.
Will the recent proposal affect the program offered by the Reevesland Learning Center (RLC) to work with local students?
Over the past year, the County has worked closely with the RLC to ensure that its educational efforts are supported and enhanced. We provide mulch, soil and other materials for the raised beds as well as trash service. The opportunity to educate children and improve their diets is ongoing and robust, and it thrives independent of the Reeves farmhouse. The County’s efforts on Urban Agriculture and Arlington Public School’s work on improved nutrition take place here and in multiple locations across the breadth and depth of our great County and are not dependent on a multi-million dollar improvement to the farmhouse at public expense. As noted earlier, the Board redirected some funds that were initially set aside for work on the property to now further enhance the gardening and other opportunities at the site, including a possible pathway and other equipment.
Will the community have a chance to participate in next steps for the farmhouse?
The Board’s action at its May meeting was not its final action on the farmhouse. The subdivision of the parcel and the demolition of the non-historic concrete block garage first will need to be reviewed and approved by the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board at an upcoming public hearing. The County Board then will need to approve the subdivision of the parcel and the final sale of the house.