Statement by Chuck Kuhn, Owner of White’s Ferry

by MCS Staff
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After purchasing historic White’s Ferry in February 2021, Chuck and Stacy Kuhn encountered obstacles to reopening this important Potomac River crossing, considering it needed to regain use rights in Virginia.  In response to the suspended service, Loudoun and Montgomery Counties conducted a study to evaluate alternatives and address issues, challenges and opportunities for restoring this important regional transportation link. Following Loudoun County’s Board of Supervisors and Montgomery County Department of Transportation meetings this week to review the study, Chuck Kuhn, owner of White’s Ferry, released this statement:

“I want to express my sincere appreciation to the governments on both sides of the river for their hard work and commitment to reopening White’s Ferry. This is important for my wife Stacy and me.  We live and work here and know the importance of this historic crossing. After its closure in December 2020, there was no plan to reopen the ferry.  The prior owner, Herb Brown, had attempted repeatedly and unsuccessfully to work with the Rockland Farm organization to find a way to land the ferry and serve his customers in a way that made business sense. His reasonable offers weren’t accepted, and he was forced to close the business.

We purchased the ferry in hopes for a different outcome. We were under no allusions that the ferry would be a profitable venture, as recent studies captured the difficulty and costs for running the ferry. Our goal was to offer an affordable, safe product with pricing that is fair and predictable for riders while protecting a unique, historic, and valued transportation route.  Unfortunately, we have encountered the same issues as the previous owner when trying to negotiate with the Rockland Farm organization, part of a portfolio of assets owned by hedge fund CEO Peter Brown, along with his minority shareholders, Libby Devlin and Harriett Dickerson.

We have made numerous offers to lease and/or purchase the landing site with no success. At their request and our cost, we had the entire Rockland Farm appraised three times to explore the possibility of purchasing the whole farm as an option for reopening the landing site. We subsequently made a $13.5 million cash offer to purchase the entire farm–which was higher than two of the proposals. There was no counteroffer and was ultimately rejected. Rockland Farm’s repeated demands for $2 million cash or 50 cents a car each way along with unacceptable deal terms made negotiations impossible. We further offered to donate the ferry and the land to the respective governments in an attempt to reopen the ferry for our region.

Instead, we have been maligned through Rockland Farm’s aggressive and misleading online and signage campaigns and insulted in public by a Rockland Farm owner…as recently as Tuesday night in front of the Loudoun County Government Center. Given the difficulty and lack of professionalism negotiating with the Rockland Farm ownership, no further negotiations with them appear possible.”

Established in 1786, the ferry remains a significant transportation route between Maryland and Virginia, carrying nearly 800 daily users when operational. White’s Ferry represents a piece of the region’s past as an early commerce route that built and sustained local economies. The Kuhns have already embarked on a number of upgrades to the ferry to bring more operational and environmental efficiencies to improve services and preserve a piece of history.

The Kuhn family seeks land acquisitions that can be sold, leased, developed, placed into conservation easement, or utilized by sister companies JK Moving Services and CapRelo, a global employee relocation and assignment management firm serving private and public sector clients. Over the past decade, they have placed more than 22,000 acres of its purchases into conservation easement, ensuring vulnerable vistas and habitats are preserved and protected for future generations. www.JKLandHoldings.net

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15 comments

Robert Walters November 20, 2021 - 5:43 am

Ridiculous. Nobody would think twice about paying $.50 more, just pay the owners of the Virginia property that pittance and open the last ferry on the Potomac back up. Pure greed from the Kuhn family pure and simple.

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Charlie Carter November 21, 2021 - 11:29 am

Rockland Farm is holding the future of Whites Ferry for a $2 million ransom while Chuck and Stacy Kuhn intended to operate the ferry at a loss, offered to buy out the whole farm, and even offered to donate the ferry to the government. And you call the Kuhns the greedy ones…

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Joey November 20, 2021 - 10:58 am

The public need for a ferry crossing should be met. Government should take over landing area, and lease back to someone who will operate a ferry crossing. Imminent domain?

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Shannon November 21, 2021 - 5:33 pm

Eminent domain is an extremely slippery slipper that has caused home and landowners to lose those properties. The government can say that the property is for “public benefit” but often ends up using private contractors and private business to build private buildings and till roads operated by private business. The Toll road to Dulles and tolls roads like the ICC classic examples. The idea to build another bridge is great, except there are landowners in both MD and VA that would have to agree to give up their land or rights to their land. The argument for and against “eminent domain” would come again. Why did the Kuhns think their experience would be different than the Browns? Pay Rockland the money they want and just move forward. This is a private property dispute.

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Paul November 20, 2021 - 12:01 pm

That’s what the farm owner wants you to think. Actually the greed is from Rockland farm. That $.50 per car is under a contract that will expire, and then they can hold out for more money then. Rockland farm wants the leverage so that they can strong arm and buy the ferry in the future and jack up the rates.

$0.50 extra per car is ridiculous since the land being rented to the ferry is only about 100ft of the landing, useless land in a flood plain that has no use other than fishing and the ferry. Rockland wants $150k a year for this useless piece of land.

Not to mention that all this is because a map drawn in 1886 doesn’t clearly identify the land border, and that the Brown family repaired a failed retaining wall for safety. This is profiteering by the Rockland farm owners.

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Art November 20, 2021 - 2:07 pm

Really, .50 for a car each way is perfectly acceptable. I looked up the past fees and it was $5.00 one way or $8.00 Round trip. The people being greedy are the operators of the ferry.

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Charlie Carter November 21, 2021 - 10:15 am

How can you call the owners of the ferry greedy when they even offered to donate the ferry to the government?

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Mr T November 20, 2021 - 3:10 pm

Why not simply build a Bridge over the Potomac river and not perpetuate this ridiculous and pointless argument empowering a bunch of mindless and lazy people who feel that they can leverage themselves by virtue of their pathetic assets in this shameful situation where they can extort their fellow citizens by making pathetic Offers and counter offers over a transportation system that is a throwback to the 19th century and exaggerates the importance of people who believe their land rights resulting from land stolen from the native inhabitants of this area provide them with privilege which guarantees them a perpetual hand in the pocket of the citizens of the state of Maryland and Virginia. Why does somebody please show a little backbone and intelligence and put a stop to this ridiculous circus and put both of these clowns out of business and open up this area to development rather than leading these parasites continue to milk northern Virginia and as part of Maryland into the 21st-century.

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Bob Rossi November 20, 2021 - 5:26 pm

Wow. You need to go to your safe space.

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Art November 20, 2021 - 5:29 pm

You are absolutely right. There should be a bridge connecting the MD inter county highway to either the Fairfax or Loudoun County highways. Personally I think the Loudoun County Highway would be the better choice. At some point we should have a second outer beltway.

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Desz November 21, 2021 - 10:43 am

Exactly!! Mr. T, building a bridge were my thoughts also!!!

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Bryan December 6, 2021 - 11:20 am

Me personally I would advocate for the eventual construction of the ICC across the river to VA 28 Sully Rd which is nearly all grade separated. Then to piss off the residents of Potomac and Great Falls advocate extending Montrose Rd to converge with the bride, cross and then split to connect with the Reston Pkwy. That would interesting since it would force MOCO to reconsider the Rockville facility of the old ICC, ie. Montrose Pkwy East.

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DP Brant November 20, 2021 - 11:19 pm

Could the states on both sides of the river add their portion of the ferry to their historic registration? As the oldest continuously running ferry. With the notation of the current situation. Of course, shame that it has come to this. With all the good that it could be, seems awfully petty. Unless someone could be trying to build a bridge. Now who would stand to profit? Gee, maybe with toll lanes. Nah, who could be that out of touch?

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Lrd102 November 21, 2021 - 6:48 pm

There needs to be a BRIDGE built and drag this into the 21st century. Unfortunately it is MONTGOMERY COUNTY that REFUSES to agree nor fund fairly a BADLY needed bridge!

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Rickie November 24, 2021 - 2:29 pm

It seems like 50 cents a car could be passed on to the consumer relatively easily. Just raise the price of the ferry 50 cents. Of course, 50 cents a car would need to be agreed upon in perpetuity by Rocklands. This seems better than having it closed though.

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