2008-07-30 / News

Salisbury board vetoes recreational land purchase

Company managed by Midlothian Supervisor Gecker is left hanging
By Greg Pearson

Chesterfield Observer
The fate of this ball field in Salisbury remains uncertain after the community's homeowner's association voted against purchasing the property.
A proposal by the Salisbury Homeowner's Association (SHOA) Board of Directors to buy an existing 1.5-acre field used for lacrosse has been voted down. The board opposed the $430,000 purchase despite a vote by the community with 61 percent favoring the purchase.

"We were looking for an overwhelming consensus [by the association members]," said President Ryvers Wright. "It was a great opportunity, but the board doesn't want to do anything to create a rift in the community."

Wright declined to say what the board vote was but indicated it was "near unanimous to oppose the purchase." Sources say the board was looking for an 80 percent approval from the community.

The land is between two other parcels bounded by Steeplestone Drive and Spring Arbor of Salisbury in the heart of Salisbury. Referred to as Lucky's Field, it is located across from the Lucky's Convenience Store.

The board decision leaves Midlothian Supervisor Dan Gecker in a bind since a company he manages bought the land at the request of the Salisbury board last year. According to sources, Timmons, the Salisbury developer, wanted the site sold for commercial development, and a childcare facility was under consideration.

"Mr. Gecker rode in on a white horse and did Salisbury a big favor by purchasing the site," said one Midlothian resident who declined to be identified. Several years ago, the Salisbury board approached Gecker, who asked Reuben Waller, now the planning commissioner from Midlothian, to negotiate the purchase terms for the land.

At the time Gecker served on the Chesterfield Planning Commission. After he was elected as supervisor, he appointed Waller to the commission. Last fall before the election, Trustworthy Real Estate bought the property, which was to sell it to SHOA for the same price.

"I do not own [Trustworthy] and have no beneficial interest in it," said Gecker. "I do not invest in property in Chesterfield so I won't develop it."

Asked what would happen to the property, Gecker said he wasn't sure. "We'll look at alternative, compatible options," he added. Those options include selling it to another nonprofit group, donating it for a conservation easement or selling it for development.

One possible buyer is the Weaver Athletic Association (WAA), which currently uses the property for lacrosse practice in the spring. WAA President Bob McRae said he plans to meet with Gecker and see if a partnership can be formed with Salisbury to buy the property.

"Athletic fields are at a premium in the county so we don't want to lose this one," he explained. "The WAA is only 5 years old, and we fight the battle for fields all the time. Having a field in the middle of Salisbury is very desirable because so many of our [association] families live in Salisbury."

Initially, SHOA proposed increasing its membership dues from $75 annually to $120 to pay for the field.

About 84 percent of the 1,550 homeowners in Salisbury voluntarily belong to SHOA. Because their community covenants don't require a homeowner's association with mandatory dues, they could cancel their memberships for any reason.

Whether an arrangement between the SHOA and WAA would satisfy Salisbury residents who oppose the purchase is unknown. "Many of the households here are empty-nesters," said Salisbury resident Todd Lumadue. "We shouldn't have to pay for a field we wouldn't use."

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