Avon Hall ‘process’ begins Monday

The first of two public hearings — on the first of what town officials hope will be a number of proposals for possible uses of the town-owned Avon Hall estate — is next Monday night at 7 at the town hall.

The meetings — including a second session purposely scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday, July 12, for those who can’t make a weeknight meeting — will focus primarily on a proposal by town resident and residential renovation expert Allen Comp, according to town council member Gary Aichele, who co-chairs with council member Mary Ann Kuhn the town’s Avon Hall Study Group.

Members of the group have met twice in recent months to consider the ideas put forth by Comp — which propose dividing the property up into a possible low-density, park-like residential area, while preserving the Avon Hall main house itself for some as-yet undecided purpose, Aichele said.

Attendees at Child Care and Learning Center’s “Alice in Wonderland” garden party fundraiser last Saturday, held at a spruced-up and open-for-tours Avon Hall, gather on the comparatively dry veranda during the rain that moved the party inside. Raymond Boc | Rappahannock News
Attendees at Child Care and Learning Center’s “Alice in Wonderland” garden party fundraiser last Saturday, held at a spruced-up and open-for-tours Avon Hall, gather on the comparatively dry veranda during the rain that moved the party inside.

The study group has included several who’ve expressed interest in the property’s future, including former town officials, longtime business owners and residents who’ve put forth ideas over the last decade or so since the property was deeded to the town by the late William Carrigan. They include former council member and longtime resident Ray Gooch, furniture maker and former mayor Peter Kramer, resident Judd Swift and others.

“At this point, we’re not trying to promote an outcome,” Aichele said Wednesday. “We’re trying to promote a process. It having been two years [since the town council decided to create the study group], we’ve spent some amount of time just spinning our wheels. So when Allen came up and said he had a specific proposal, we thought: Why don’t we use this to start up a process, to start to queue up proposals for Avon Hall and see if they have merit.”

The town split off a small part of the estate eight years ago for its wastewater treatment plant, but much of the estate remains intact, including the original home, which was seen by several hundred visitors this past weekend for the first time in many years, when Child Care and Learning Center held a fundraiser on the grounds and in the recently cleaned-up and painted house.

“I think the timing was good for that,” said Aichele, “because it gave people a close-up look at the place again, and reminded them of the possibilities it holds.”

One possibility, of course, is that the town could sell the property — an estate that could bring as much as $4 to $5 million, some have said. The optimistic appraisal would decrease substantially, however, in proportion to the restrictions added by the town (including restrictions on use — or demolition — of the historic main house and three smaller buildings on the property).

“The key question to ask about Allen Comp’s plan,” Aichele said, “is ‘does it make sense to separate out the Avon Hall building question — to pull that building out of the current equation and decide about it later?’ It is true that whenever we’ve talked to people about buying the whole property, they all want to know if they have to keep those other three buildings, if not the main building itself.”

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