Another equestrian facility in Fairfax County is at risk of disappearing because the property owners are seeking to sell the land on which it sits.
Windswept Farm, a 32-acre property near the intersection of Braddock Road and the Fairfax County Parkway, currently is home to an 11-member horse boarding cooperative.
The land, however, is owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia — the result of a lengthy legal dispute between the diocese and former Episcopal churches that separated from the diocese because of religious disagreements.
The Church of the Apostles purchased the land for $2.5 million in 2001, according to county real estate tax records. The intent was to build a new church there, according to Henry Burt, secretary and chief of staff of the diocese.
Church of the Apostles later separated from the Episcopal Church, as did several other Virginia churches. There was a multi-year lawsuit regarding whether the property belonged to the diocese or to the churches.
Following the resolution of the court case, the main 32-acre property and two smaller parcels, totalling about 11 acres, the court ordered that the land be transferred to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. The transfer took place in May and they were placed on the market in July.
“The Diocese of Virginia has decided that the property is not essential to our mission,” Burt said.
The three properties combined are assessed for about $2.4 million, according to county records, and zoned for one house per 5 acres.
Although the property has sat unused by the church, the co-op of horse owners has made the land their home. They were renting the land from the Church of the Apostles, and the diocese was not aware of the arrangement until they took ownership.
“We all have a love for the property,” said co-op member Christina Baker of Fairfax, who boards her two horses there. “We’ve worked on it so hard.”
They’ve cleaned up a once-neglected property, she said, building fences and maintaining the stables. Members take turns doing regular chores, such as feeding and cleaning stalls, and get together to work on larger projects like building new fence.
“We just learn as we go,” she said.
The co-op members now are living with the uncertainty that they could be asked to vacate the property at any moment, and will be left trying to find new residences for the dozen horses that live there.
“We’re kind of frantic. We don’t know what to do,” Baker said.
Boarding space in the county is increasingly scarce and expensive, she added.
Another stable facility in southeastern Fairfax County, Woodlawn Stables, may be forced to move or close due to the widening of Route 1. Woodlawn has a much longer history than the Fairfax co-op and there is a major community effort under way to save it.
Baker said the uncertainty of the sale affects everything, from deciding how much hay to order to determining what maintenance projects are worth the effort.
Burt said he is trying to provide the co-op members with regular updates so they can make plans.
Before she joined the co-op, Baker kept her horses at a boarding facility near Manassas, which made it much harder for her family to enjoy and spend time with their horses, she said, as more and more spaces are lost to redevelopment.
While they know they will have to move out someday soon, Baker said the co-op members would want to see the land preserved as open space in some way.
“It’s just such a beautiful place. It would be a shame to see it destroyed,” Baker said.