For $7.5 million: Defaulting Bundoran claimed on courthouse steps
Bundoran, a defaulted open-space-oriented development in southern Albemarle, was taken away from its developer June 29 on the courthouse steps when the lender, Wells Fargo, valued it at $7.5 million. There were no other bids at the Wednesday afternoon auction. Subsequent to the foreclosure, the developer announced that it would continue developing– just with Wells Fargo as the owner.
"We know they'll be good stewards," said Charles Adams of Celebration Associates, a firm which had been a 50/50 owner of this so-called "preservation development" near the village of North Garden. The other owner was Qroe Preservation, a New England-based concern that began developing the farm as Edge Valley Preservation LLC. Adams said he did not know the amount of the debt but conceded that the property had been in default for "over a year."
The foreclosure is just the latest in a trio of setbacks that began with tragedy on a rainy day in 2006, when a small private airplane carrying Qroe founder Robert H. Baldwin and piloted by Qroe associate David Brown crashed in fog, unable to find the grass landing strip on the property. Both men died.
After that, the real estate market deflated, causing the place to go an entire year without a single sale, according to a candid interview in March when the developers defaulted on an adjacent parcel, the historic Upper Bundoran.
In response to a reporter's question, Adams noted that Celebration Associates is losing another of its vaunted developments within days of losing Bundoran. The Homestead Preserve, a planned community adjacent to the famed Homestead resort, will be taken over by Wells Fargo by a deed in lieu of foreclosure, Adams said.
Bundoran lies on the same side of Charlottesville as another infamously defaulting property, the 1,200-acre Biscuit Run. There, another set of developers found a lifeline in the form of conservation tax credits when they sold it for use as a state park. While that sale provoked public outrage and touched off a state investigation, officials may have closed their files on that deal.
Curiously, the much larger Bundoran– which covers approximately 2,300 acres– did not attempt to use conservation tax credits, says Adams.
"And there were no federal tax deductions either," notes Adams. "We just wanted to see the land stay in the present land pattern."
Adams said that 30 of the approximately 100 platted lots at Bundoran have sold with five houses standing and two more under construction. The Bundoran plan has been to keep most of the acreage under conservation easement as pasture, forest, and orchards.
The developers bought the property in 2006 for $31 million from Fred Scott, who attended the auction but who did not appear to participate.
Adams said that the Wells Fargo purchase should be comforting to homeowners. "We know they'll be in good hands," said Adams.