The current owner of the now-closed historic White’s Ferry says he’s “run out of options” to resume ferry service across the Potomac River, from Maryland to Virginia, and now plans to sell the operation to Montgomery County, Maryland.
Established in 1786, White’s Ferry was shut down in December 2020 following a long-running dispute over the ferry’s Virginia landing site on Rockland Farm, outside Leesburg.
Chuck Kuhn and his wife Stacy bought the ferry in February 2021, with hopes of resuming service. But in a statement Monday, Kuhn said a combined $1.1 million offer from Kuhn, Montgomery and Loudoun counties to buy 1.4 acres on the Virginia side of the river was rejected by Rockland Farm.
“We are grateful for the significant and good faith efforts of our local and state governments on both sides of the Potomac to help re-open White’s Ferry,” Kuhn said.
“We have run out of options and will now seek to sell the ferry land and operations to Montgomery County so it can work to invoke eminent domain and acquire the Virginia landing site.”
Rockland Farm owner Libby Devlin issued a statement in response, saying, “The reason we turned down the $1.1 million combined offer from Loudoun County, Montgomery County and Mr. Kuhn, is that Rockland Farm will not accept a flat fee for its Virginia landing. We favor a volume-based fee that varies with the amount of traffic encroaching upon our land.”
Since its closure, reaction has included anger that the ferry service, which could transport between 600 and 1,100 daily users, was no longer available as an option. Studies envisioned future possibilities for a revamped ferry.
While the Virginia landing site is in a remote location, with no businesses nearby, on the Maryland side of the river, businesses in Poolesville have suffered a financial hit.
Devlin said she remains open to a deal.
“Rockland Farm has made an offer to both Montgomery and Loudoun counties for a permanent easement on our Virginia landing in exchange for a volume-based fee,” Devlin said. “Our offer is still on the table.”
Kuhn’s statement suggests $1.1 million deal was more than fair, “well above the appraised value for the flood plain land.”
“The farm’s proposed price of 50 cents a car each way would have resulted in a 50% reduction in operating income, making the ferry business nonviable,” according to the statement. “In addition, the farm’s stipulation that it could shut down the ferry at any time without notice made it too risky a business to pursue.”