Travellers Rest

With an $8.5 million loan from the Fauquier Bank now completed, a reorganization plan for the owners of a 670-acre property just two miles east of Middleburg has been approved by a federal bankruptcy court, clearing the way for the possible development of as many as 38 new homes.

In mid-December, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Eastern District of Virginia recenty took Traveller’s Rest LLC, owned by T. Nelson Gunnell and Alfred Rogers Smithwick of Middleburg, out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Gunnell also is the founder and co-owner of the nearby Banbury Cross polo facility along Rt. 50 just east of the village that is not part of the 670 acres.

Gunnell and Smithwick filed for Chapter 11 last June 16, avoiding a foreclosure sale on the Loudoun County courthouse steps.

Andrew Hertneky, a former energy industry executive and avid polo player who lives in Marshall, will be the managing partner of the new enterprise called Middleburg Land I LLC that will control the property. The $8.5 million loan from The Fauquier Bank to that new entity was recorded in Leesburg at the Loudoun County courthouse on Dec. 28.

“We’re taking it out of bankruptcy,” Hertneky said in a telephone interview on Dec. 27. “It’s all free and clear, and all creditors will be paid. We’re moving into a new chapter…That’s all I can say at this point.”

Stanley Settle, a long-time acquisition executive with Pulte Homes, will be involved with Middleburg Land 1 as part of what Settle described as “the development team” that also will include Gunnell and Smithwick in some type of role.

“They both grew up there and know that property like the back of their hands,” Settle said on Dec. 29. “We’d be crazy not to take advantage of that…They’ve asked for my expertise in the layout and development of the property. I’ve worked with many builders. I’ll help them get it off the ground so it can be marketed and sold.

“It can be done well. It will be done by all the rules and regulations of Loudoun County. It will be done in a good way.”

Gunnell did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The largest Traveller’s Rest creditor was Marshall Capital, represented by Brooke Middleton of Marshall, which initially lent the company $4 million. Under terms of that original agreement, with accrued interest, Marshall Capital will be paid $6.45 million, under the reorganization plan approved by the bankruptcy court.

Settle indicated there will be a cluster of homes, likely on three-or four-acre lots, in one area of the property with other homes on 100-plus acres.

“It’s a beautiful piece of property,” Settle said. “We’re not going to force something that doesn’t belong there. We’ll use the natural beauty of the land.”

Still, local conservationists and land preservationists almost certainly will be opposed to any development on a vast and mostly wide-open piece of land, with parts of it running along Route 50 leading into Middleburg.

“The public outcry will be deafening if they move forward with this,” Jean Perin of Upperville, co-chairman of the board for the Warrenton-based Piedmont Environmental Council PEC), told the Fauquier Times in early December. She said she was speaking as a private citizen, and not on behalf of the organization.

“That a local bank would be supporting something that is very contrary to the local landscape and will create serious repercussions is unfathomable,” Perin said at the time. “People will be

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