Chestertown, MD — The executive committee of the Board of Visitors and Governors of Washington College has approved an agreement to acquire 75 acres of land located on the western edge of Chestertown in partnership with Leroy Kirby, Jr.
The agreement, which President Baird Tipson signed on Monday, June 30, grants the College an option to purchase a 5-acre parcel on the Chester River, contiguous to its existing boathouse, for the development of an expanded waterfront presence. Ownership of this property would allow the College to develop, over time, coherent waterfront programs which would respect the natural beauty of the river frontage. Public access to the area would be greatly enhanced, particularly during the summer months when the College is not in active session. The College would also become a passive investor in a partnership owning the inland 70-acre parcel located north of Route 289, commonly known as Stepne Manor. Kirby would be the managing member of that partnership.
Stepne Manor has long been discussed in town planning meetings as a potential site for development of a new neighborhood that would incorporate the design and planning aesthetics of the historic district of the town. The College intends to sell its interest in the property to Kirby once he receives necessary approvals to proceed with development of the new neighborhood.
"This somewhat complex agreement allows Washington College to accomplish two of its most important goals," explained Baird Tipson, president. "Our strategic plan calls for us to recognize that our setting in Chestertown, amid the beauty of the Chester River and the Chesapeake, is a significant institutional advantage, one that will continue to help us realize our ambition to be one of the nation's most distinguished and distinctive liberal arts colleges. An outstanding waterfront presence will become a critical component of our attractiveness to students. This agreement also promises to enable us to influence the character and quality of what is developed on the Stepne Manor site, which has been identified by the Town of Chestertown as an appropriate location for new residential housing. Because Chestertown is an enormous asset to us, we will seek to do our part to ensure that this town's unique appeal is preserved and sustained for future generations. A carefully-planned residential neighborhood, working from and extending the town's existing street grid and incorporating timeless principles of tasteful design, will be far preferable to the clumsy, insensitive development that has become increasingly common on the upper Eastern Shore."
Tipson emphasized that the College will preserve and improve public access to the waterfront. While specific plans for the waterfront site have yet to be developed, the College has long identified a need for expanded space for academic programs and research vessels, including a new home for its Center for the Study of the Environment and Society, as well as expanded space for its rowing and sailing teams and for water-oriented recreation programs. Tipson added that the agreement does not change the College's possible interest in the former Armory Building, subject to the Town of Chestertown's determination as to its optimal utilization.
"We look forward to collaborating with the Town of Chestertown and Kent County in making the most of this opportunity," Tipson said.
June 30, 2008