VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A proposal to relocate the more than century-old Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center appears to be staying just that for now, a proposal.

Monday, Del. Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach) told 10 On Your Side that nothing is moving forward at this time due to feasibility challenges revealed in a recent state study. It found relocating and replicating the 70-plus acre facility could cost upwards of $100 million.

“Study doesn’t look all that promising,” Knight said.

Still Knight, as the chair of the powerful Virginia House of Delegates Appropriations Committee, is patron of the six-year capital outlay plan that includes the relocation, estimating a $75 million to $100 million earmark.

The bill passed the House unanimously and will likely receive a similar vote in the Senate. But it’s that bill that has spurred a call to action from community members, environmentalists and gardeners alike.

They want the idea of anything changing on the center land scrapped.

The center sits on a more than 70-acre triangular plot and is bordered by Diamond Springs Road to the west, Bayside Road to the northeast and Northampton Boulevard to the south.

Known as HRAREC for short, it is part of Virginia Tech’s Agricultural Research and Extension Centers across the state.

Originally founded in 1907 as the Virginia Truck Experiment Station, it’s original focus was on vegetable production according to the center’s website. Today, nursery production, landscape maintenance, turfgrass, small fruit production and urban stormwater management are all topics researched on-site.

“The mission of the Hampton Roads AREC is to provide leadership in production and health of specialty crops, water management and environmental sustainability through nationally-recognized research and extension programs,” its mission statement reads. “The HRAREC focuses on ornamental, turf, fruit, and vegetable crops and water quality and management in agricultural and urban ecosystems.”

While a majority of the site isn’t accessible to the general public on a day-to-day basis, there are demonstration gardens as well as arboretums that are open free of charge.

One of which, known as the utility arboretum, was created in partnership with Dominion Energy “to enable landscapers and homeowners to view the results of planting appropriate and inappropriate trees and shrubs under a typical utility line.”

Jeffery Derr, professor of weed science and the center director, said they are there to serve the community.

“We’re generating information that benefits … whether they’re a grower, whether they are a master gardener, homeowner … benefiting from the work we are doing here,” Derr said. “We can provide suggestions and recommendations on the crops we work on.”

It’s one of the many reasons fans and master gardeners said they were shocked to hear of the relocation proposal last year.

In Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R-Va.) first budget, $500,000 was included to study a possible relocation of the site to southern Virginia Beach.

Knight said he supported the study after farmers from the southern area of the city requested the facility be closer to where most of the farming was located.

However, the study came back saying “significant work and costs” would be required to replicate soil conditions and redundant equipment would be needed during a two-year transfer period.

Knight said a $2 million amendment proposed to begin the process has been scrapped from budget amendments, but the project will stay in the capital outlay.

“Just because it’s on the list doesn’t mean it’s going to get funded,” Knight said.

State Sen. Bill DeSteph, (R-Virginia Beach) whose new district would include the property, said that if it wasn’t for the cost, he’d support the relocation.

“It’s very valuable land,” DeSteph said.

The property, which is broken up into three parcels and leased to Virginia Tech. is owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the city of Virginia Beach, and the city of Norfolk respectively. Virginia Beach’s city assessor estimates the value at $5.6 million.

Several sources within the development community not authorized to speak publicly say major construction firms have been eyeing the property for years. Due to its proximity to the interstate and airport, it would be prime industrial use.

Opponents truly expect its deep-pocketed developers to be behind the whole effort.

“It’s just really upsetting,” Mildred Manger, a Virginia Beach master gardener, said. “I also understand companies need land to develop. But not this land. But not this land you can not reproduce what is here.”

Manger, 84, said she and others who enjoy coming out to the center will continue fighting to protect it.

“It’s just a tremendous resource for the public,” Manger said. “It’s wonderful.”