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Eco Discovery Park will close at the end of the week after the nonprofit park was unable to convince the James City County Board of Supervisors to agree to a sale of the 37 acres of publicly owned land where it is based.
The supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday to reject a motion put forth by Supervisor John McGlennon (Roberts), which would have sold the land — known as the Jamestown Yacht Basin — to the park contingent upon a 30-day window where the park’s leadership would develop a plan with county officials to prove the financial viability of the park.
Supervisor Jim Kennedy (Stonehouse), who expressed reservations about selling the land to the park without any kind of financial guarantee it would succeed, also voted yes on McGlennon’s motion. After the vote, Park President Steve Rose told WYDaily he will turn the keys for the site over to the county on June 1, when his current lease extension expires.
“We’ll be sitting down with our board and deciding how to move forward, but there are no real plans at this point [to reopen the park elsewhere],” he said.
Eco Discovery Park opened in 2012 and currently offers bike and watercraft rentals, though it had planned for a much more extensive footprint, including trails and exhibits on sustainability.
The closure of Eco Discovery Park means James City County Parks and Recreation will step in and assume management of the marina.
While there were five offers on the table for the land — which includes a marina, a few buildings and a parking lot — the supervisors largely focused their remarks on the $500,000 offer from Eco Discovery Park and on whether the board had done a good enough job expressing what it wants to see done with the land.
“What we need to do is look at if we’re going to sell this piece of property, we need to figure out how it would be marketed and what we would need to do to market it, and what we as a board want to see for the citizens on this piece of property,” said Chairman Michael Hipple (Powhatan), a point echoed by Supervisor Mary Jones (Berkeley).
After the meeting, Hipple told WYDaily the board will discuss what it wants to see on the property and how it should be marketed in the coming weeks and months. The board took no action on the four other offers presented for the land.
Kennedy repeated remarks he has made in the past about the dilapidated condition of the marina at the Jamestown Yacht Basin. The bulk heads and piers associated with the marina have been deteriorating for years and repairs will require a significant investment.
“You want it to be successful if you turn it over to anyone,” he said. “If we do turn this over to anyone outside the county, it’s important that they can maintain it and bring it back up to standards. I’ve been unhappy with the condition of this marina for many years.”
McGlennon said he has received as much correspondence about Eco Discovery Park as he has “on anything in the last several years” and that much of that correspondence has been supportive of a sale of the yacht basin to the park.
“We’ve got a very heavy outpouring of support for an existing facility that has its flaws but has some great positives associated with it,” he said.
He said the other proposals were contingent upon rezoning the land from its current business designation to allow for residential development at the site and that past discussions with citizens and board members have revealed little appetite for such a move.
“I would predict that it will be rediscussed and the subject of intense concern by citizens if a proposal to include residential development comes forward in a rezoning proposal,” he said.
Chris Henderson came forward during the board meeting and presented a $1 million proposal to buy the land on behalf of Marty Moliken and a group of investors. Moliken owns the James River Marina in Newport News and proposed building a new 150-boat dry storage site, a seafood restaurant, up to 24 residential units and a potential bed and breakfast.
Another group offered $1,025,000 in the past week to buy the land, renovate the marina, add restaurants and build 60 condominiums.
Along with Rose’s offer, the county was already considering a $650,000 offer from real estate investor John A. Franklin and an $825,000 offer from Swan Landing at Jamestown LLC, a company interested in building 65 to 70 townhouses and 15,000-square-feet of retail at the site.
The county has owned the yacht basin since it purchased the site along with the land that is now Jamestown Beach Event Park in 2006 for $12.5 million. Grant funding accounted for $2.9 million of that sum. Some of the land was later sold to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and the Virginia Department of Transportation for $4.5 million.