, 2015

Bluff Point PUD evolves into educational gift

by Renss Greene

HEATHSVILLE—A planned unit development project at Bluff Point has been cancelled in favor of a gift to James Madison University (JMU) and a conservation easement, reported Northumberland county administrator Kenny Eades following a January 2 board of supervisors meeting.

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“There will be no development,” said Thomas Dingledine, who owns the property. “There’s only one residential unit on all of the acreage.”

According to a recent press release, the land which had been set aside for development was instead parceled into a 37-acre gift to JMU, a 6-acre gift to the county and an 860-acre conservation easement. JMU will have access to the conservation easement to conduct research and teaching exercises.

“Most importantly, it’s not about the gift,” said Dingledine. “It is the real keen interest that JMU has in establishing a facility there that allows them to create interdisciplinary studies down there.”

“This presents a natural connection for us as JMU and Harrisonburg are located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” said provost Dr. Jerry Benson. “The new field research site graciously provided by Tom Dingledine creates an opportunity for our existing research efforts to expand in further exploring the full cycle of ecological impact on the bay.”

“We were kind of hoping the other one could have been a big benefit to the county too,” said supervisors chairman Ronnie Jett, referring to the scrapped planned unit development (PUD), “but this is a great thing too. It takes a lot of thought to decide to make a gift like this. This will be a big benefit to the county too.”

Dingledine said he worked with several universities on this idea, including Wake Forest University, University of Richmond, JMU, and University of Virginia, and envisions a collaborative venture among the schools.

“I think when it plays out, there will be nothing else like it,” Dingledine said. “This will be such a collaboration between universities, various components of universities, interdisciplinary at a level that is simply not seen.

“It is not an economic decision for me, but it’s about creating something special, something unique within Northumberland, and one that provides opportunity and growth for, hopefully, untold numbers of students as decades become centuries.”

According to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, conservation easements vary by the property, but “restrictions necessary to protect the conservation values of your property might include limitations on divisions of the property, limitations on the number and size of improvements that can be constructed on the property, no-build areas, riparian buffers,” etc.

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