The story below is an excerpt from our January/February 2017 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, log in to read our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app. Thank you!
The high bidder in a government auction of an entire West Virginia village had an amazing Christmas gift in December—a whole West Virginia mountain town, complete with 80 houses, 10 cabins, a hotel, fire hall, community centers, bowling alley, tennis courts, swimming pool, even a wave pool and disc golf course.
The entire 123-acre former U.S. Navy base at Sugar Grove sold for slightly over $4 million to one Robert Pike. The federal General Services Administration (GSA) won’t release any information about Pike, but if he’s looking to start a monastery, corporate retreat, nudist camp, or truly exit the grid, this would be just the place. Set in Pendleton County, population 7,229, Sugar Grove Station is an hour’s drive from Harrisonburg, Virginia—not really close to anything.
Described by the GSA as “the sweet spot in the West Virginia mountains,” Sugar Grove attracted 15 bidders. It’s a quiet spot, located within the 13,000 square-mile National Radio Quiet Zone around Green Bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory, where interference from electromagnetic waves, like those emitted from phone towers, is severely limited. Cell towers aren’t banned in the zone, but they are few and far between and heavily regulated.
For this reason, Sugar Grove appeals to “electrosensitives,” who claim to be made ill by cell phone or Wi-Fi transmissions. Marketing materials described the town as “ideal for a training center, academic campus, a spa, movie studio, or mountain resort.” State officials floated the idea of a women’s prison, but backed off after estimating costs. After an initial sale by the GSA in July ended with a $11.2 million winning bid by a buyer who later defaulted, the town—valued at around $16 million in local tax assessments—went back on the auction block in the fall.