Whites Ferry Reopening Plans Hit Snag as Virginia Landing Negotiations Stall

When the Kuhn family purchased Whites Ferry in February, they held out hope of quickly reestablishing the transportation link with Maryland. However, it now appears the crossing won’t reopen this year as the battle over paying the Virginia landowners to use their property continues.

The ferry shut down in late December following a cable break and the conclusion of a years-long legal battle with a ruling that it lacked legal authority to use its Virginia landing. Negotiations with Rockland Farm, the site of the Virginia landing, on a fee to use the landing produced no result.

After purchasing the business, Chuck Kuhn, the founder and CEO of JK Moving Services, said he hoped to restart the service within weeks. Now he said it may be 10 months before operations can resume.

“We stand ready and willing to reopen. The ferry has ramifications for our local economy and the livelihoods of many people, from technology workers to retail employees to farm workers,’ Kuhn stated. “The former ferry owner Herb Brown and his team have been a pleasure to work with as have all the municipalities and states—all of which are interested in protecting this important transportation route. We will be seeking more help from the county and state to ensure this vital route serves our community and people.”  

But Libby Devlin, manager of the property and a member of the family that owns Rockland Farm, said her family is fighting strong-arm tactics to take their land. Devlin said the family asked for 50 cents per vehicle as compensation for using the land, with the Loudoun County government offering to maintain a count of the vehicles.

“Instead, Mr. Kuhn continued to push for a permanent easement and threatened to convince County, State, and Maryland officials to pursue condemnation of the Virginia landing if Rockland did not agree to his offer for a permanent easement,” reads a statement from Rockland Farm published April 7. “Mr. Kuhn gave a deadline of 5:00 PM on Friday, March 26th for Rockland to agree to his terms. Mr. Kuhn’s offer for a permanent sale or easement came to a tiny fraction of the 50-cents-per vehicle fee that Rockland is seeking as compensation for the use of its landing.”

“He’s been really putting a lot of pressure on state, county and Maryland officials to condemn our landing, and says that we will get very little if we don’t take his offer and we risk condemnation,” Devlin said. […] We don’t want to give up permanent rights to the property, because it’s been part of Rockland farm forever and ever, and it’s just part of the history here. It’s sort of sacred ground to us, and again we were hoping for an ongoing stream of income to help support the agricultural use.”

“Rockland remains open to working with White’s Ferry, County and State officials to get the ferry operating again but insists on fair compensation for the ongoing use of its landing,” the statement concludes.

Established in 1786, the ferry remains a significant transportation route between Maryland and Virginia, carrying nearly 800 daily users when operational. It is the only Potomac River crossing between the American Legion Bridge and Point of Rocks.

50 cents—the fee per vehicle that Rockland Farm is asking at Whites Ferry—is painted on a retaining wall at the landing. [Rockland Farm]

9 thoughts on “Whites Ferry Reopening Plans Hit Snag as Virginia Landing Negotiations Stall

  • 2021-04-07 at 4:38 pm

    New ferry owner but same problem. Perhaps it’s not the ferry owners that are the problem.

    • 2021-04-08 at 3:26 pm

      By that you mean the same problem is that the ferry owner does not want to pay anything to the landowner? Wouldn’t you want to be compensated if a private business was using your property to make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year? I would.

  • 2021-04-07 at 7:52 pm

    Fifty cents per vehicle strikes me as fair compensation. Please pay them the money and open the up the ferry.

  • 2021-04-08 at 7:15 am

    No landing in Virginia= no ferry.

    Fifty cents seems like a very reasonable ask.

  • 2021-04-08 at 8:04 am

    This is fishy. I’ve heard that it’s MD that does not want a bridge. If true, this should change their mind. This is a private ferry that Mr. Kuhn, the data center player, bought. The fact that he can’t strike a deal with the owners on the VA side is his problem. His folly should not be funded by the government.

  • 2021-04-08 at 9:18 am

    This is a novel tourist destination, not a transportation issue. I can’t recall the amount we paid last time we used it but I know it was more than $.50. I remember thinking this is quite the cash cow.

  • 2021-04-08 at 9:57 am

    Rockland Farm is a greed based family! They are asking for roughly 3% of the take, and not offering to do a thing for it! Are they going to do maintenance of any sort? NO! As quoted- “Libby Devlin, manager of the property and a member of the family that owns Rockland Farm, said her family is fighting strong-arm tactics to take their land”. Are they going to pay for someone to sit there and count cars? Again, NO!
    your tax money will!

    • 2021-04-08 at 3:22 pm

      Private businesses like this have car counters and report all “ticket sales” as revenue to the IRS. It is easy-peasy and ensures they are actually paying what they should be. It has nothing to do with our tax money UNLESS of course the county and/or government agencies intervene for the benefit of Mr. Kuhn and his new cash cow. $.50 is a joke. The ferry owner has been using the land for free for many decades, or maybe paying $5.00 a year, in total, a few decades ago.

  • 2021-04-10 at 10:12 am

    A tough and painful issue – time for a compromise. There is historical evidence that Loudoun County condemned a part of Rockland property for Conrad’s Ferry landing (1781), but the meaning of “1 perch by 16 perches” is uncertain in terms of defining the exact boundaries of the condemnation. Conrad’s Ferry eventually succumbed to floods, and it wasn’t until 1947 that Elijah White reached out to Rockland for permission to re-establish the ferry landing. An agreement was reached (1952) for $5/year rent, AND, reportedly, terms stating the landing would not be physically changed. White’s Ferry was initially a small operation, but, regional populations grew, and the ferry owners wanted to grow too. In 2015 the ferry owners enlarged the landing and built structures on the Rockland Property apparently WITHOUT giving notice, OR hammering out an agreement with Rockland. (1) This is a private property matter, and tax dollars SHOULD NOT be involved in the resolution. (2) Rockland and the current ferry owners could split the cost of counting cars during a defined period of time–whatever local knowledge says would be reasonable–perhaps a certain number of weeks during each quarter so that all seasons are covered. Based on the cost of car-counting equipment an escrow account could be established in advance into which each entity deposits an equal amount of good faith funds, and a neutral manager is appointed. (3) When the data is tabulated, the parties could discuss an equitable settlement for annual “rent.” There could be an agreement that a more limited car counting could be done every X number of years, or if there is a noticeable uptick in ferry use. Increases in annual rent could be tied to a % of the traffic volume uptick. (4) A mediator could get involved. (5) Alternate landing sites could be explored, including sale of the current site to the ferry owners, perhaps including the cost of privacy barriers with native shrubs/trees. (6) The costs of maintaining the ferry itself and any landing structures would be the responsibility of the ferry owners, as are typically any business property expenses. (7) if the ferry owners lease, instead of buy the landing, upkeep of the landing would be the responsibility of Rockland, as the lessor. (8) Sadly, the ferry could close forever. Just thoughts on a foggy day in Loudoun.

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