POWHATAN—Just over three years after the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament announced the order’s intention to sell the historic property known in Powhatan as Belmead on the James, the sale has finally gone through.
The final paperwork was signed on Tuesday, June 11 that saw Jeff Oakley of Prince George County acquiring the 2,265-acre property for $6 million.
The property has a rich history in the county, having gone through incarnations as a plantation, home to two schools for black children and, more recently, had been building a reputation for its conservation efforts.
Oakley said that diverse history is part of what attracted him to the Belmead property and made him decide to submit a bid through the request for proposal process used for the sale. Oakley said he was notified that his proposal was not chosen, but when funding fell through for the first choice, which was made by a group of local nonprofits and conservation groups, Oakley was approached to see if he was still interested. He definitely was.
“The property was just so unique, and it’s got every type of topography, every type of timber, and wildlife is abundant,” he said. “Then when we learned about the history that goes with it, hands down it was the best piece of property to try to get. The diversity from the mid-1800s all the way through three years ago – the history kept building.”
Negotiations took awhile as both sides were working to put together a deal that worked for everyone, he said. One condition of the sale was an agreement to preserve the cemeteries located on the property. Oakley likes the idea of putting in a skeet course, which was allowed, but a firing range was not. There is also a restriction on opening a casino on the property for 25 years, he said.
The sale was recorded in Powhatan County Circuit Court on June 12 with AJ Holdings listed as the buyer. It showed the sale price at $6 million, but the assessed value was $7.1 million.
Oakley is president of Oakley Tank Lines, a trucking company started by his father in 1981 in Prince George. As soon as he graduated from Old Dominion, Oakley went to work for his dad and has been there ever since.
He and his wife, Ashley, and three young daughters—Bradleigh, 6, Hartley, 4, and Waverly, 2 – live on a farm in Prince George that will continue to be their primary residence. But as some of the plans to fix up part of the property come to fruition, they will come and explore.
“It gave my wife and I an opportunity to leave a legacy to our daughters that would be something she and I could be really proud of,” he said.
Ashley said she is excited to see what her husband does to preserve the property. They have already talked about exploring the grounds with their daughters, getting them interested in horseback riding, and playing with them in the James River.
Oakley was both excited and cautious about talking about plans for the future, mostly because many of the ideas for a respectful improvement of the property would take a great deal of money, he said. In the near future, his immediate plans seem focused on cleaning up overgrowth and identifying areas of immediate concern.