Letter: Nothing (new) to see here

The recent stories of Mr. Jim Abdo and his real estate investments have resulted in good discussions for the Town of Washington and the county, though this is not the first time someone has come into the county with a splash and grand plans. Actually, these people are good for the county.

They come in, buy their properties, spend a ton of money — hopefully with local contractors and trade people — and then disappear after five to 10 years, leaving behind houses and buildings with another 100 years of life. If you look around the county there are plenty of examples of fine historical structures that were renovated and now have new owners.

Also, it’s not a new event for someone to come to county with money: We are just used to people with money being more quiet. Maybe that is the difference between old money and fresh money.

Mr. Abdo has purchased 10 properties for $2.6 million, or an average of $260,000 per property. Not a great sum of money per unit. He purchased the old VDOT property in Washington, which has been on the market for years and no buyers, at auction and paid more than the list price.

This property did not generate any taxes for Rappahannock County since it was owned by the Commonwealth. I’m sure he has some construction plans that will not only generate land taxes but improvement taxes. I would hope all of his improvements will increase the values of his properties and give the county more tax dollars. We, the taxpayers of Rappahannock County, are facing tax increases in the area of three or four percent per year. We need something to slow this rate.

Washington needs some diversification. Presently, they have the ideal situation where the Inn pays the majority of the revenues required to run the town. The natural cycle of business says this will not always stay the same. Mr. Patrick O’Connell is getting older and at some point ownership will change.

The Inn is too small for a Marriott or an Omni to be interested, and too valuable for a younger chef to purchase. If and when this happens, the town will be more stable if there are additional businesses to help absorb the shortfalls in tax revenue.

The tourist business is the type of clean growth that the county has been promoting for over a decade. The comprehensive plan is riddled with comments on tourism whereby people visit the county, spend their money and leave. Most people do not realize that the only real growth in our tax base is new home construction on large agricultural parcels.

Case in point: John Lyle’s old farm, six new homes in the last six to seven years, all between $400,000 and $1.5 million. Twenty-one more lots to go. The vast majority of buyers of Rappahannock County dirt are not natives of Rappahannock County, but from the same area as Mr. Abdo. That is not good or bad — just the reality of the situation. This migration will continue as long as there is money and property for sale in Rappahannock County.

I for one welcome Mr. Abdo and hopes he spends a lot more money, and buys more real estate. His money will generate more tax dollars for the county than some old orange Dodge Charger parked in a hay field every 12 months or so.

Alvin Henry

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