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White's Ferry owner turns up heat as land seizure debate takes shape in Virginia

In a new statement, ferry owner Chuck Kuhn accuses a Virginia landowner of insulting him. But Rockland Farm claims an offer for arbitration is on the table.

LEESBURG, Va. — A new shot has been fired across the Potomac River in the dispute that has kept the Historic White’s Ferry grounded for nearly a year.

Now it has new accusations that the owners of the landing on the Virginia side are refusing to negotiate.

The Virginia landowners deny the claim and say they are offering to go into binding arbitration with Historic White's Ferry owner Chuck Kuhn.

The claims come as a fight over whether or not Loudoun County should step in and seize private land on the Virginia side is ramping up after the release of a new study claiming a restart of service will have a $9 million combined economic impact in Loudoun and Montgomery counties.

On Friday, Kuhn, a moving company magnate, issued a written statement claiming he’s been “maligned” and “insulted in public” by the owners of the Virginia property.  

Kuhn, who owns the ferry boat and the land on the Maryland side, accused the owners of Rockland Farm LLC of refusing to negotiate.

Rockland Farm owns the land on the Virginia side used as a landing.

Rockland is insisting on being paid either $2 million dollars or 50 cents per car to let the ferry dock on their side, according to statements from co-owner Libby Devlin.

Kuhn refuses to pay, so the ferry has remained grounded on the Maryland side since December 2020.

Kuhn claims he’s offered $13.5 million in cash to buy Rockland Farm outright with no results.

“Given the difficulty and lack of professionalism negotiating with the Rockland Farm ownership, no further negotiations with them appear possible,” Kuhn said in his statement Friday.

On Tuesday, Devlin testified to Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors that her family has made six different offers to settle with Kuhn.

“Rockland Farm deserves to receive fair payment for the uses of its landing, just as the new ferry owner should be compensated for the use of the Maryland landing. If the shoe were on the other foot," Devlin testified.

“Unfortunately, the prospect of the county condemning Rockland's landing for the new owner’s use creates a disincentive for him to negotiate with us,” she added.

In a written statement issued Saturday in response to Kuhn's allegations, Devlin said she's offering binding arbitration:   "Rockland has been willing to come to the table with White’s Ferry’s previous owner and new owner from day one. We continue to believe a volume-based fee of fifty-cents per vehicle is a very reasonable price for the use of our landing. Even at significant risk to us, we have offered to enter into binding arbitration whereby a neutral third party would choose the fairest solution. We continue to hope that White’s Ferry will join us to arrive at a private arrangement to re-open this historic gem that has crossed the Potomac for as long any of us can remember."

Pressure for seizing Devlin’s land is ramping up after a new study claimed a $9 million per year economic impact from restarting the ferry. The study also found that a government takeover of the ferry could cost taxpayers $3 million per year.

Loudoun County supervisor Caleb Kershner weighed in Tuesday: “This is a dispute between private parties, a dispute that we really don't want to get involved in unless we absolutely have to.”

Other witnesses have testified that an attempt by Loudoun County to seize land by eminent domain so that a privately-owned business such as White's Ferry can operate may not be legal.

In Maryland, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich urged the Loudoun County government to get involved.

“I implore you to take what action you can,” Elrich told the Supervisors Tuesday.