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Battlefields group interested in Toms Brook auction

By Sally Voth - svoth@nvdaily.com

The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation will watch with interest as a 200-plus acre plot of land on the Toms Brook Battlefield goes up for auction later this month.

The Chartwell Group LLC/Chartwell Auctions is auctioning off 224 acres at the southeast corner of Interstate 81 and Mt. Olive Road and stretching to U.S. 11 at noon on Sept. 26. The auction will be at the Hampton Inn, 1655 Apple Blossom Drive, Winchester, according to a news release from the auction firm.

Bidders can place offers on the piece as a whole, or buy it in three parcels. The minimum bid for the entire property is about $2.5 million, which works out to $11,350 an acre.

That's not much more than half the $4.75 million price the owners paid in 2005.

Strasburg attorney Doug Arthur; Doug Boyd, of Sunlight Properties; and Pennsylvania resident Bob Borden owned the land with the late Chuck Maddox. Arthur declined to comment on the pending auction on Friday.

Various plans have been discussed for the site, but none has come to fruition. These include a large housing and mixed-use development, a distribution center and even a site for the RSW Regional Jail.

Preserving some of the site also has been discussed, according to Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation conservation director John Hutchinson.

"The whole property is pretty much in the study area," he said.

About 20 acres are in the core battlefield area, Hutchinson said. A hill on the site is known as Sheridan's Hill, he said. 

"Sheridan set up there during the battle of Toms Brook and directed the battle," Hutchinson said. "We have discussed with the landowners in the past - the current owners - the possibility of acquiring either some land on that hill, Sheridan's Hill, or some sort of a right of way access to it for interpretation purposes, and we still have that interest.

"The foundation, if it had the resources and the money and the landowners were willing, we would like to see most of the study area protected, but that's not realistic, and that property sitting right there on the interchange, it's just got such a high value per acre that it would be very difficult."

He said the current owners were receptive, and the foundation has an ongoing relationship with Boyd as it tries to acquire another property he owns.

"I probably will attend the auction," Hutchinson said. "It's not necessarily going to sell because the market's so poor that it's not likely to receive a bid that the owners can accept."

Shenandoah County Administrator Doug Walker said the county doesn't have any connection with the upcoming auction or any possible developments there.

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