WINCHESTER — Information shared by the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (MSV) reveals the nonprofit expected opposition to its plan to sell 20.26 acres of undeveloped land for construction of age-restricted housing.

Dana Hand Evans, director and CEO of the MSV at 901 Amherst St., said in an email to City Council and a memo to museum employees that an earlier plan to build walking trails through the 20.26-acre site adjacent to the museum's campus was thwarted by neighbors who didn't want visitors that close to their homes due to safety and security concerns.

Based on that experience nearly a decade ago, Evans wrote in an email to City Councilor Richard Bell, "it was anticipated that there would be a fair number of questions, concerns and what appears to be a large amount of misinformation about the MSV and the sale and development of the 20+ acre parcel adjacent to The Trails at the MSV."

In an attempt to deflect criticisms and concerns, Evans provided a history of the 20.26 acres and an explanation as to why the property may be sold to Elevate Homes of Williamsport, Maryland, for construction of a 74-home subdivision for people age 55 or older.

"The 20-acre property was primarily a hay field and there was regular farming activity on the site," Evans wrote in the email to Bell. "This was never a wilderness preserve."

Some neighbors who oppose the planned subdivision say the development site includes about 10 acres of woodland that provide a home to wildlife. They contend that building houses there would eradicate the natural habitat and force the animals to find shelter elsewhere.

"While many animals used the land, their habitat here was regularly disturbed," Evans wrote in the email. "Actually, tree planting in new [residential] lots would arguably provide more habitat for pollinators and birds than currently exists there now."

Between 1997 and 2002, Evans wrote, a conceptual land-use study was performed on the 20.26 acres. Architects, historians, archaeologists and officials with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources determined that no structures or family cemeteries were ever located on the site.

From 2011 through 2013, museum officials considered integrating the property into the Trails at the MSV. After the museum decided to leave the land undisturbed due to neighbors' concerns, Evans wrote in an internal memo to MSV employees that the Glass-Glen Burnie Foundation — a private group that supports the MSV and owns the 20.26 acres — considered the site "an asset of its financial portfolio."

Earlier this year, "The foundation was approached by a buyer [Elevate Homes] and has decided to sell the 20 acres," Evans wrote in the memo. "The funds from the sale of the property will go toward supporting the museum and its free-admission art park, The Trails at the MSV."

No sale price has been disclosed.

Evans added in the memo that the Glass-Glen Burnie Foundation has no plans to sell any additional museum property.

— Contact Brian Brehm at bbrehm@winchesterstar.com

(5) comments

WINCBEST

We need to let a Maryland base business build in Maryland. Whoever said $500,000

housing was needed in Winchester apparently Has not and probably never worked in this area. We do not need the DC residents to move hear and elevate our taxes. Like i said Bell was not the man for the job. Couldn't care less about what the residents of the area wants.

TonyR

Winchester does not need another cluster of $500K houses. There is a acute shortage of 'affordable' housing. Address that issue first. $500K is not 'affordable housing'.

StellaBob

500k is affordable to many. Winchester needs lower income housing but also more houses that are higher level of income. Both are welcomed and needed.

slowe

Where, exactly, is this 20 acres?

delaurel66

At the very end of Jefferson Street beyond the water tower and to the south of the Museum of The Shenandoah Valley on Amherst Street.

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