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Parties see hope in Mullins talks page 2
No deadline has been set in negotiations to preserve part of historic Spotsylvania farm.

Date published: 8/27/2004



Less than two months later, Mullins purchased 496 acres on Route 3 from Roderick and Shirley Ashley for $2.2 million.

Mullins originally tried to develop the property himself, but later entertained other offers. A Northern Virginia company wanted to build the Town of Chancellorsville--nearly 2,000 homes and up to 2.2 million square feet of shops and offices--but county supervisors rejected that plan in 2003.

On Jan. 26 of this year, Toll Brothers bought 30 building lots from Mullins for $2.73 million. The exact acreage was not listed in the land records, but the lots are zoned rural residential, meaning they must contain at least three acres.

On June 15, the company shelled out $3 million for an additional 123 acres.

Preservation activists and Mullins have clashed for years. Preservation groups have expressed interest in buying the farm but questioned his willingness to deal when he set a $40 million asking price. Mullins has said he never received a firm offer from the preservationists and grew tired of seeing them quoted in the newspaper saying they wanted to buy his land.

Into the breach has stepped Tricord.

Under the potential deal, the Spotsylvania developer would build a subdivision of age-restricted homes, a three-step continuing care center and low-impact retail and office space.

Tricord's role in the process was revealed last week by a member of the Spotsylvania Planning Commission.

Tricord officials declined this week to comment on the status of negotiations.

Spotsylvania Supervisor Hap Connors, an outspoken preservation advocate, is optimistic about the talks.

"Each time I've seen the proposals and the changes, it keeps looking better and better," he said.

Money may be one of the prime sticking points, given the rate at which Spotsylvania's land values are soaring.

Campi said his organization hasn't yet decided on a ceiling for its contribution to the deal.

"We're certainly not a cash cow, but the money's there for this deal," he said.

To reach GEORGE WHITEHURST: 540/374-5438 gwhitehurst@freelancestar.com

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