The rest of the rest of the story

Fear and Loathing in Waynesboro column by Chris Graham

One way to look at Lofton Lake is to view it as a million-dollar retreat owned by some of the area’s most prominent figures. Another would be to look at it for what it is – an old campground that a group of mostly low-profile friends decided 20 years ago was worth putting their hard-earned money into.

“The original group each put down $25,000 to buy in, and that was an awful lot of money for us,” said Ruth Lawrence, whose husband, John, inadvertently made the Augusta County property the talk of the Waynesboro political scene by going forward with his story of how he’d been among those recruited to run for city council by a group of local businessmen who made no bones in their interview with him about their dislike for Walker.

How this came to our attention is that Lawrence and Walker are fellow shareholders in the Lofton Lake Association property – and another fellow shareholder is real-estate developer Bill Hausrath, yes, that Bill Hausrath, Mr. Enemy of the State himself. A story and editorial on the Lofton Lake affair that ran in last Thursday’s News Virginian left readers with the impression that there was something very much untoward in the matter of how Walker came to own his share in Lofton Lake, much of it having to do with innuendo surrounding Hausrath.

It was reported that Hausrath, the registered agent for the Lofton Lake Association, pushed on behalf of Walker, one of 11 people who had expressed an interest in buying into Lofton Lake, then closed the land deal with him in 2004. The problems created therein would be obvious, given Hausrath’s many dealings in development projects in Waynesboro, including the Wayne Theatre redevelopment project downtown.

If only the situation was as the newspaper framed it.

“Per the bylaws of the Lofton Lake LLC, my husband and I contacted the entire Lofton Lake partnership when we decided to sell our share at the Lake three-plus years ago and asked that the partners contact us if they knew anyone who might be interested in purchasing our share,” wrote Kathy Belcher, one of the owners of the piece of property that Walker eventually bought, in a letter to the editor published in The Augusta Free Press on Saturday.

“Bill Hausrath, as a Lofton Lake partner – not as a Realtor – called and said he might know someone who would be interested in purchasing our share, and then introduced us to the Walkers. The Walkers and my husband and I met and/or spoke on several occasions to discuss the possible sale,” Belcher wrote.

“To try to imply that there was any level of politically motivating shenanigans resulting from the sale of my husband’s and my share in Lofton Lake is just wrong,” Belcher wrote.

As to the matter of the 11 people who had expressed an interest in the share in Lofton Lake, the paper reported that “(t)en other people were seeking to become a part of the partnership,” and attributed that statement to Hausrath. But Hausrath says he did not make that statement, though he said something pretty close to it, to the effect that there likely would have been other people who would have been interested in the property given the appeal of the Lofton Lake campground.

The Lawrences confirm that they had never heard of anybody else coming forward to express an interest in purchasing the share owned by Belcher and her husband, Joe Thompson.

“No one that we know, that I’ve talked to, including Thompson and Belcher, believe that to be true,” John Lawrence said.

So what do we have here, then? Other than another opportunity to add to the legend of Bill Hausrath, who would cajole you, too, no doubt, into doing something that was against your best interests, given half the chance to do so?

Am I the only person interested in seeing this line of juvenile merrymaking come to an end, and soon?

augusta free press news