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Posted November 14, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Auction of huge Fort Valley estate, Catholic retreat on Saturday

By Sally Voth

A unique 400-acre Shenandoah County property featuring its own church, chapel, barns, stables, school and workshop will go on the auction block this Saturday.

The 390-plus acre estate in Fort Valley is being marketed as a potential retreat for religious or corporate groups, a camp, a family compound, a farm, a wedding and events venue and even a "secure self-sustaining lifestyle compound" by United Country Redfield Group Auctions Inc.

A sign at the corner of Fort Valley Road and Zion Passage marks the entrance to Familia Dei, The Village of Mt. Zion. Gravel roads meander past a restored farmhouse, a pond, large fields and up a large hill. Along the way are a large stone and wood church, various houses and farm buildings, and a couple of playgrounds.

The property belongs to Dr. William Sabates, an opthamologist who lives in the estate's main house, said Don Boozer, project manager for Alabama-based Redfield Group. That house is included in the auction.

"He's a devout Catholic," Boozer said of Sabates. "He felt like there was more. He sold his businesses, bought this property, moved up and developed it."

The land was used for religious retreats and a self-sustaining lifestyle, he said. Because of that, the homes have many bedrooms, Boozer said.

"Had their own cattle, hogs, gardens, a school," Boozer said.

According to The Village of Mt. Zion's website, Familia Dei is a lay apostolate that "seeks to serve all our brothers and sisters, by providing an ambiance permeated with God's creation and an atmosphere conducive to His Holy Peace and Joy."

The website states facilities were available to be rented out to groups or individuals.

Nine homes -- including a 10-bedroom, 6 1/2-bath main house with a pool and cabana -- a 350-capacity church, a 94-acre tract with a small stone chapel, a food services building, a wood shop, a warehouse, a school building, several barns and other farm buildings, 10 home sites and various tracts are included in the auction.

"It can be bought in its entirety, or individual tracts or any combination of tracts," Boozer said.

The Ever Holy Virgin Mary Daughter of Zion Church sits on a stone foundation and has a stone and wood facade and bell tower. In the basement is an apartment, meeting space and kitchen.

Upstairs in the sanctuary, there are wooden pews, wooden ceiling beams and walls, stained glass windows, several altars, angel statues, carvings of the Holy Family and the stations of the cross and views of the surrounding woodlands.

Not too far away, a small storybook chapel, which also has a bell, sits amongst trees.

The property had originally been for sale for $20 million, and then $15 million, said George Bailes, site coordinator for Redfield.

A property deed dated April 27, 1995 indicates Sabates and his wife, Angelica, paid about $2.6 million to several parties for four tracts of land totaling more than 500 acres.

Boozer said Sabates had sold quite a few sites, which make up the adjacent Homes of Mt. Zion subdivision.

"When he would have people come in for retreats and people visiting, he was often asked by people if they could buy some property there, so he created a subdivision on the edge of the property," Boozer said.

Bailes said on Tuesday the auction firm has gotten about 80 calls from interested people, and about 20 people have come to the property. Many also have visited the company's website, Boozer said.

"I would say anybody that's remotely interested ought to check this out," he said. "[Sabates] is very motivated. He has other interests that he wants to pursue. [However,] he don't have to sell it. I don't think he has any debt on it."

While most of the auctioned sites are subject to Sabates' acceptance of the bid, four lots and a 15-acre tract will be sold regardless of price to the highest bidder, Boozer said.

"When the sun sets on auction day, he does not want to own it anymore," he said. "Anyone that's remotely interested should be there. Could be the opportunity of a lifetime."

Some other possible uses include a hunting club or an outfitters, Boozer said.

Also included in the auction is Sabates' daughter's home at 313 Edinburg Gap Road in Edinburg, according to Boozer.

Those wishing to bid must register and put a $2,500 deposit on individual home sites, or $5,000 for tracts or homes, prior to bidding.

Registration starts at 10 a.m. Saturday in the church's basement, with the auction at 11 a.m. The property can be toured this week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, visit redfieldgroup.com, or call 866-673-9270.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com

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