Those who desire a farm-life experience, but lack the means or desire to manage a huge piece of property, can find a solution at Bundoran Farm in southern Albemarle County.
Bundoran Farm is a conservation development featuring 2,300 acres of protected land with only 100 home sites. Now it’s getting some national recognition from Southern Living magazine, which selected the development for its 2015 Idea House.
“The goal behind the Idea House is that Southern Living chooses an inspired community that they approve of their design standards, intent and uniqueness of the community,” said Hunter McCardle, Natural Retreats’ vice president of U.S. real estate. “We are building the house with hopes that someone from the public will fall in love with it and buy it.”
Ninety percent of Bundoran’s acreage is written into perpetual agricultural easements and must be actively farmed. With easements on the property, residents have access to the entire farm without worry of the farm switching to non-agricultural uses.
One of the original developers, Robert Baldwin, had a vision to continue the working agrarian landscape while allowing individuals to live on it. Baldwin and another developer, David Brown, died in a plane crash on the property’s runway in 2006 but Natural Retreats is striving to preserve Baldwin’s vision.
The Baldwin Center for Preservation Development, headquartered at the farm, focuses on sustainability and connecting people to the working landscape.
“Everything has been intentionally designed and sited in order to preserve both the working landscape and environmental characteristics,” McCardle said.
The farm features 15 miles of hiking trails, two ponds for swimming and fishing, 26,000 apple trees and various livestock.
“They have the ability to live around the livestock-component of horses, cattle, sheep, and appreciate it, but not have to take care of them,” said Natural Retreats’ general manager, Josh Woodson.
A popular vineyard, Pippin Hill, also is located on Bundoran Farm, but it manages the land itself for growing grapes on the agricultural easement.
Besides the protective easements, the development’s homes are also positioned with an eye toward landscape.
“All of the homes are sited such that they were out of the public viewshed as much as they can be and are protected from viewing each other as much as possible,” McCardle said.
With 13 existing dwellings, three being constructed and three more in the works, the developers hope to have about 20 homes built by the end of 2015. The ultimate goal is 100 homes.
Another plan Natural Retreats has for the community is a Bundoran Farm Inn, a low-impact bed and breakfast.
“It will be big for University of Virginia alumni and Bundoran guests who visit the area for the weekend,” Woodson said. “And off that we want to build a pool and fitness center, so not only will we have the vacation component, but an amenity for the community, as well.”
Plans also include a market garden where people can enjoy the field-to-table aspect of the land.
“The idea is to purchase beef, horticulture and potentially some local cheeses from Bundoran,” Woodson said. “We want to make it not just accessible to Bundoran but the North Garden and greater Charlottesville community.”
When people purchase a Bundoran home site, they are responsible for the few acres immediately surrounding their house. The land outside of that it falls into the agricultural easement, which the community maintains jointly.
“When you buy your lot, you have your two acres,” Woodson said. “You can build dwellings on that lot … but outside of those two acres you can’t build anything, and that’s how we protect the landscape.”
Woodson said current residents are pleased with the experience.
“They embrace it and are all good stewards to the property,” he said.
UVa graduate Sandy Stuart and his wife have been living at Bundoran for two years after relocating from Chicago.
“We came back with certain criteria,” Stuart said. “We wanted a view and farm. No power lines, no railroads and no traffic noise. Here we get that great rural lifestyle and we are only 15 minutes away from the city.”
The Southern Living Idea House will be open to the public for nine months starting in the spring. They are expecting 30,000 people to visit for ideas on how they can furnish, remodel, or build their own home.
Natural Retreats is building the home in partnership with Summit Custom Homes, The Rosney Company Architects, Water Street Studio, and Bunny Williams Interior Design. Southern Living is coordinating the decorating and finishes.
“It will recognize Bundoran Farm as a unique community not only to Charlottesville but the entire country,” Woodson said. “It will give justification for Bundoran being the No. 1 conservation-based community.”