Winding Brook might not run dry after all.
June 25 the board of supervisors voted 6-1 to restructure the Lewistown Community Development Authority’s bonds for the commercial development.
The restructuring is expected to make the area more marketable to developers, because the assessments will decrease from $300,000 to $100,000 per acre and would also allow full repayment of bonds currently in default. The 185-acre property already has a benefit on its side as it is situated along Interstate 95.
Chairman Sean Davis, Henry District supervisor, voted against the request and said the development was doomed from the start. He stressed that the supervisors are having to fix a mess that is not their own.“It was a bad plan from the beginning,” Davis said in an interview Friday.
Davis said that by immediately going to bond restructuring, they are “removing the free market options.” He pointed out how not everyone can have the government come in and bail them out.
Davis believes there were other options on the table, but this decision was “fear-based.”
“If you don’t do this, the sky’s gonna fall,” Davis said, referring to the decision to restructure the bonds.
In addition, Davis said the assessments on the property were “unattainable.”
Despite Davis’ opposition towards the board’s final decision on restructuring the Lewistown CDA’s bonds, he wishes the project the best and hopes that it’ll work out. Davis did point out, though, that there are other CDAs in the county that have been successful.
“We’ve created different rules for different people,” he said.
On the other hand, Chickahominy District Supervisor Angela Kelly-Wiecek expressed strong support for the proposal at the time of the board’s vote.
“It is incumbent upon us to do what we can to get out of the way and allow this development to proceed,” Kelly-Wiecek said. “It is vital to our health as a county and I know that it is something we all want to see.”
South Anna District Supervisor Wayne Hazzard saw the restructuring as a win-win.
“Most of it, if not all of the give, has come from bondholders and the people that are gonna be the recipients of this money, so the county wins anyway,” Hazzard said.
“This change is for the better because we then get the development and we need to generate the revenue.”
The bond for the development was issued in 2007 and the Lewistown CDA was formed in October 2006. The developer, Holladay Properties, formed the CDA after getting approval from county supervisors and got bonds to fund development.
As part of the CDA, each property owner in the area must pay for infrastructure improvements in exchange for a lowered tax assessment.
When infrastructure was built, it helped entice Bass Pro Shops to open a location on the property. Several other businesses are located there including a hotel and a handful of restaurants.
The area was hardhit when the economic recession began in 2008; property value did not increase as much as anticipated and the $37,675,000 bond borrowed from numerous stakeholders was not paid back as expected.
And in March 2014, the landowners defaulted on the bonds.
“Winding Brook effectively has a very dark cloud around it,” said Edwin Gaskin, economic development director.
Five citizens spoke out in support of the bond restructuring at the public hearing.
Virginia Housum, senior vice president at UMB Bank, represented a number bond holders.
“This is a perfect opportunity to help Winding Brook compete in the market place and be put in a position to attract new development,” Housum said.
One commercial real estate broker, John Beckner, who also lives in the South Anna District, said he has a client that has been interested and looking into the possibility of developing in Hanover and maybe even in the Winding Brook area. But Beckner said with how the bonds were previously structured it wouldn’t have made sense financially. “We find it close to impossible to bring this development to Hanover,” Beckner said. “We strongly support the proposed restructuring and hope we can revisit the site and bring a national presence to Hanover.”