Ferrisburgh subdivision could hit market

FERRISBURGH — About six years after the developers of the Pierce Woods received Ferrisburgh and state permits for their 21-lot planned residential development (PRD) off Stage Road, the lots have yet to be formally marketed.

But that status for what is the second-largest housing subdivision ever approved in Ferrisburgh could change in the coming months, according to town resident David Shlansky, one of the principals in the company that owns the land and is developing it.

The key questions, Shlansky said, are when to invest up to $500,000 to complete common elements in the PRD — such as the road, a shared septic system, power lines and a fire pond — and when the market will justify that move.

That time might be coming closer after years of delay caused by lawsuits filed by a neighbor, in all of which Ferrisburgh Realty Investors LLC (FRI), the ownership entity of record, finally prevailed.

“My guess is come the fall we might be able to get that (project) kick-started,” Shlansky said. “It’s just that you don’t want to build out the infrastructure for 20 lots and have the market for none of them. So I think the time is getting right for that.”

The final court decision in FRI’s favor came in 2010. At that time, FRI said it would go ahead. But in an interview last week Shlansky said the decision was complicated by the economic downturn and the soft real estate market — and the cost of moving forward.

“We have an infrastructure requirement there, and we’ve done about a third of it. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem. Until you have the infrastructure, you can’t sell the lots,” he said. “But it’s about a half-million of infrastructure. I can do that very tentatively and gradually, or I can get a bank. And at least the last time I asked, banks weren’t lending. But lots are starting to sell again.”

Given that last thought, Shlansky is considering more seriously again getting the ball rolling on a project that was also the first in Ferrisburgh to take advantage of PRD rules in town zoning. Those rules allow developers to create smaller lots than would otherwise be permitted in a zoning district, if they set aside other lands to remain open.

Conservation easements have thus been placed on many of Pierce Woods’ 115 acres, which run from Stage Road on the north end all the way to Lewis Creek on its southern boundary. And in what is mostly a 2-acre zone, 17 of the Pierce Woods lots are between 0.4 and 1.7 acres.

Plans call for new road to access the lots, and power and septic lines to be installed to each lot, and creation of a 300,000-gallon fire pond. A homeowners’ association will manage shared infrastructure and will jointly own another 40 acres that FRI says is ecologically valuable land. Four larger parcels of between 15 and 25 acres will include land that FRI is protecting with conservation easements.

Pierce Woods buyers will be asked to accept limits on the use of their lots. Each lot will have a building envelope in which homes and other improvements must be located. Homeowners will also have to get approval from FRI for landscaping plans and the size and appearance of their homes.

Shlansky said he hopes to be able to move forward soon on a project that in 2010 an FRI vice president said would eventually carry lot prices starting at about $100,000.

“It’s going to be really nice. We might try to build some of the houses ourselves. We have a crew, and we enjoy doing that. And we have some designs. We have an architect who does some really good work,” he said. “So we’re really excited about that. It’s a great project.”

The court cases prevented the lots from hitting the market in 2007, before the recession. But Shlansky said he was unsure of the long-term effect of the delay on the project: He acknowledged the possibility that Pierce Woods would have met with disappointing results as well as found a welcoming market.

“It may have been that we built it out and got it all ready to go on Dec. 1, 2007, and we would have been ready for a bad market, it’s hard to say,” Shlansky said. “The conventional wisdom ... is that we missed that (strong market) cycle, and I think that’s probably right, and I just don’t know the answer.”

Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]

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