The Monacan Indian Nation recently purchased more than 1,000 acres on Laurel Cliff Road in Monroe for $5.5 million, a move that ties into the Amherst County-based tribe’s plans for development opportunities its chief said will benefit the Monacans and the county.
Chief Kenneth Branham in an interview confirmed the land acquisition and said the tribe is planning a rehab center, housing and a retirement home community. He added those potential development opportunities may take years to come forward and are part of the tribe’s long-range planning.
The land was sold to the Monacans from Realty Acquisitions LLC, according to deed records and Branham.
The Monacans became a federally recognized tribe in early 2018 after a two-decade push, which opened up a wealth of new opportunities. In October 2020, the tribe bought property at 111 Highview Drive that now operates as the tribe’s headquarters and a location for various programs and services.
The tribal office on Highview Drive near the intersection of U.S. 29 and Dixie Airport Road includes space for offices, classes, a food bank and a future clinic site. Branham said a ceremony for the health clinic is planned for 11 a.m. Oct. 20 and it will include a drive-thru pharmacy and other health-related services.
He said the 1,292 acres on Laurel Cliff the tribe purchased has three houses, two of which are being rented out. One of the homes is planned to eventually be used for economic development purposes as a wedding venue destination with beautiful scenic views, said Branham.
“It’s a big piece of property,” Branham said. “It will be years in the making for a lot of the stuff, but we’re very fortunate to acquire it.”
Another potential use for the site is to have the Monacans' powwow, a major event that brings thousands to the county in the spring. It hasn’t been held since the COVID-19 pandemic and the tribe for years has rented the land on Virginia 130 in the Elon area from a local family.
“It’s what we need,” Branham said of the Laurel Cliff Road property. “There’s a field there. It’s flat. A lot of parking, a bit more than what we would do in Elon. The road going to there is in excellent shape. ... I had no idea how big it was and how spread out it was.”
Branham said a rehab center for alcohol and drug addiction is a need the tribe has researched, adding such facilities are almost non-existent in the area.
“That is a problem not only with Native Americans but everybody,” said Branham. “It is a problem here in Amherst County, whether people like to admit it or not. It’s going to be open for everyone. We’ve got people in the tribe who need it. This will be somewhere they can go and get the treatment and be closer to home.”
A retirement center also would bring new jobs and business activity to the county, he said.
“It’s a big economic development [opportunity] that’s going to benefit Amherst greatly,” Branham said. “We would like to work with Amherst County because it will be beneficial to everyone.”
Branham said the Monacans’ dream has been to own the land where the powwow is held each year.
Jeremy Bryant, Amherst County’s director of community development, said the Laurel Cliff land is largely agricultural in zoning and specifics the county would consider in future development there include utilities like water and sewer and traffic impact.
A retirement home development would help meet a housing need, he said.
“A lot of residents have expressed their opinion we need more retirement homes in Amherst County,” Bryant said.
Jimmy Ayers, of the Amherst County Board of Supervisors, said senior living opportunities are a major need for the county's aging population.
“Our population is a little toward the senior side. Our youth retention is very low,” Ayers said. “As folks age, they have to make housing adjustments. They look to find more of a maintenance-free style living. If that works out for [the tribe] to develop a senior living sector on that property … that’s a great thing if they can bring that to fruition.”
Ayers said the Monacans have acquired a beautiful piece of property that will benefit the county when developed.