Dominion Resources Inc., the parent of Virginia Power, said last week it will develop a 1,000-acre recreational and residential community on land along the Potomac River in Stafford County.
Dominion Lands Inc., a subsidiary of the utility holding company, and Rust/Bryce Associates, a private architectural firm based in Alexandria, are participating in the project. The two firms have formed Widewater Associates to handle the $60 million joint venture.
The community will include single-family residences and town houses and a 200-slip marina that will have capacity for 800 slips.
Up to 3,150 units of waterfront and inland residential housing will be built along three miles of shoreline. The houses will range in price from $100,000 to $500,000, Farley said.
The Widewater community bears the name of the peninsula where it will be built. The peninsula is located at the northern end of Stafford County, about 30 miles south of the Washington Beltway and eight miles east of Interstate 95.
"Development in this particular area of Virginia has been lucrative in the last several years, and the economy is real good," said Daniel F. Farley, vice president of Dominion Lands. "We think it's going to continue and it's an opportunity we wanted."
Farley said marketing studies showed that there is a need for a second-home recreational community in Stafford. "The near-retiree would be the type that we would be targeting," he said.
Dominion Lands was formed at the end of 1986 as part of Dominion Resources' strategy of diversification. Dominion Lands is also developing the Harbor View mixed-use project in the Suffolk/Tidewater area that includes 7,400 houses on more than 3,100 acres of land.
The Widewater development, modeled after the historic districts of Fredericksburg and Alexandria, will have a commercial center with restaurants and stores overlooking the marina, an 18-hole golf course, a country club with a full range of recreational amenities, and an executive conference center.
In addition, an extensive pathway system will be established for joggers and bikers.
A private airport with a 3,000-foot runway, ramps and taxi strings will be built on an existing 148-acre tract.
The Widewater community will generate nearly 600 new jobs in Stafford County, according to an economic impact study of the project. New revenue to the county, mostly in the form of new real estate and sales taxes, is expected to total more than $7.1 million once the development is completed, Dominion Lands said. The county will also collect personal and property taxes for boats and airplanes based at Widewater.
The project's construction is pending approval of a master plan for development and land rezoning filed with Stafford County officials.
Stafford County Administrator C.M. Williams said the county is the second-fastest growing in the Commonwealth of Virginia, with the current population estimated at 52,000, up from 40,000 in 1980.
The Widewater proposal "has a number of elements that we certainly would like to see in Stafford . . . particularly a hotel where conventions can be held and a marina," he said. "We've got a number of marinas, but they're small."
The hitch is that the area has sewer- and water- capacity problems and inadequate roads, he said.
"Those issues have to be addressed before we make a final decision on the project," he said. The preliminary plan for the development would provide for a new sewage treatment plant and water from a series of wells that would have to be drilled, he said.
As part of its diversification strategy, Dominion decided to develop 2,000 acres of prime land in Virginia. The land was originally set aside as a site for new power plants, but a need for those plants does not now exist.
About 600 of those acres are included in the Widewater project, while an additional 400 acres were purchased specifically for the project by Dominion Resources.
William W. Berry, chairman of the utility holding company, has said that the company's goal is to have 10 percent of its profits come from diversified businesses.
Many utilities are diversifying as construction programs wind down and these companies generate internal cash. Nonutility businesses are an attractive investment because they are out of the reach of regulators who cannot cap the profits.
David Heavenridge, Dominion Resources' vice president of administration and comptroller, said the company's other unregulated subsidiaries are "very busy."
The company's subsidiary, Dominion Energy, has launched a joint venture with CSX Transportation Inc. to sell electricity to utilities and steam to commercial customers.
Dominion Energy will build electric generators on industrial premises outside Virginia Power's service territory to produce electricity and steam.
Dominion Energy is also developing plans for small power production projects on industrial premises. "The contacts we've made are quite extensive," he said.
The subsidiary is also about to announce some joint ventures in the acquisition and development of oil and gas reserves, he said.
Dominion Resources is also developing plans to sell commercial paper -- or short-term loans with interest -- to companies in the region.
In 1985, the company formed Dominion Capital and acquired Rincon Securities Inc., a firm owning $300 million worth of securities assets, as a subsidiary of Dominion Capital.
"There is nothing very mysterious about it," said Heavenridge. "There is an opportunity to reach out and make some investments and earn some returns that are a little higher than the typical regulated utility return."