College owns lucrative property

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April 6, 2007

3:34 PM

The North College Woods — an 80-acre tract of land that runs along the north side of Monticello Ave. — is becoming an anomaly within the Williamsburg city limits, where open land is becoming increasingly scarce.

p Despite its value, administrators from the College claim that no plans exist to partition off the property, one of the most valuable pieces of land in Williamsburg.

p. Unlike other portions of woodlands owned by the College, the Board of Visitors did not reserve the woods for recreation and research.

p. “The history of the site is such that the College has considered selling it off to private development,” said Randy Chambers, a biology professor and director of the Keck Environmental Laboratory. “But luckily that sell-off has not happened.”

p. In 1995, the College won the right to restrict transfer of the land, making sale of the North College Woods more difficult. Sale of the land would require a two-thirds approval from the BOV. Approval of Virginia’s General Assembly would also be needed before any sale is final.

p. “There are no plans to develop that property,” said Jim Golden, associate vice president of economic development and corporate affairs. “In addition, the College has a master plan in which guiding principles seek to preserve green space on the campus.”

p. Chambers pointed out that this “economic gold mine” sits on prime realty space. Currently, commercial New Town and High St. border the property. But Ironbound Village, a new housing development, and the soon-to-be constructed School of Education will eventually border the property as well.

p. “That tract will be bounded by a dense cluster of homes and businesses,” Chambers said.

p. Despite guarantees by administrators, Chambers remains unconvinced of the permanence of the North College Woods.

p. “Of course I’d like to see it retained as forest, but the pressures are great and from all sides,” Chambers said.

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