$4.7M offer made on former Moxley property rejected by Walkersville officials
Realtor working to sell the farm says any offer is worth consideration
The fate of a historic farm house and 224 acres of land in Walkersville still hangs in the balance after town officials rejected a multi-million dollar offer for the property.
At a March 23 meeting, officials discussed the future of the town-owned Walker Farm, a historic source of controversy for the municipality that has been up for sale since mid-2010.
According to Walkersville town manager Gloria Rollins, a developer recently made the town an offer for $4.7 million for the entire property.
But only a 14.4-acre parcel, which includes the farm house, is up for sale. The other 210 acres are leased through December to a local farmer who is paying the town $160 per acre, or a little over $30,000 for the year.
Although the developer's offer is exactly what the town paid for the land after settling a lawsuit with the previous owner, David Moxley, three people who spoke at the meeting and the commissioners expressed that they do not want to see the land developed, Rollins said. All of the current commissioners have voted in opposition of town growth, most recently during their dealings with the county about its Comprehensive Plan.
Moxley purchased the 224-acre property for $3.4 million from Hood College in 1996. The Nicodemus family had donated the farm to Hood College after owning it for 150 years. Soon after buying the land, Moxley proposed the concept of residential development there to the town. Walkersville commissioners voted against his rezoning request in December 1996. Moxley unsuccessfully proposed residential development of the land again in 2003. He finally listed the farm for sale in August 2006.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which intended to build a mosque on the property, was the first to make an offer. In 2008, after town officials blocked the sale by denying Moxley's request for rezoning yet again, Moxley filed a $16 million discrimination lawsuit against the town, alleging that officials denied it because of an anti-Muslim bias.
That suit was settled in August 2009 when the town agreed to purchase the property from Moxley for $4.7 million. The town officially purchased the farm on Dec. 18, 2009, and officials have been trying to recoup some of the funds that went toward the purchase since then.
Because the town spent a large chunk of its savings on the farm, interest earnings for the town's budget decreased drastically between fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011. More than $100,000 in interest was expected last year while less than $5,000 would come in this year, according to town manager Gloria Rollins.
The town initially attempted to sell the property on its own through newspaper advertisements. When that proved unsuccessful, commissioners voted in July to start looking for real estate agents.
Fred and Chris Kelley, a husband and wife duo based in Frederick, were chosen because they offered a lower commission rate than other agents and are allowing an immediate termination of the contract in case the town eventually decides to try to rent the property. At most, the Kelleys will receive a 5.5 percent commission.
The home was built in 1722, is appraised at $1.39 million, has 11 rooms, including three bedrooms, 2 ½ bathrooms and a finished basement, Rollins said.
Since the Kelleys came on board, they've received no formal offers, Fred Kelley said March 24.
People who have come to look at the property have fit into one of two categories those who are interested in the house as a residence and those who are looking at it as a potential venue for event services, he said.
"The residential people all find it very interesting but have basically no interest in buying it to live in," he said. The unique features of the historic farm home "don't suit them for day-to-day type living," he said. Those who have looked at the home from a business events stand point couldn't swing the price, he added.
"If somebody is willing to purchase it for way over what seems to be the market value ... it would be worth discussing," he said. "But the town just seems so, so anti-development, which you can understand with the history of the property ... but there are different types of developers and a lot of developers are smart enough to realize that contributing to a community in positive ways, is good for everyone."
Rollins said the name of the developer who made the offer $4.7 million could not be released and that the future of the farm will be discussed further at future meetings.