Ferrisburgh inks land deal; vote set for December

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh officials say the town has reached a $700,000 deal to buy a 34-acre Route 7 parcel if residents approve the purchase in a vote tentatively set for Dec. 12. 
Selectman John DeVos said he — on behalf of a selectboard-appointed task force that also included board chairman Larry Simino — and landowner Clark Hinsdale Jr. of Charlotte both signed a letter of intent last week and that attorneys on both sides have begun preparing a formal purchase-and-sale agreement.
The deal is contingent on selectmen’s formal approval as well as voter support. DeVos said the rest of the five-member selectboard believe residents should have the opportunity to weigh in on the land purchase, which will close early next year if backed in December.  
“Everything hinges on the voters when we present it to them,” DeVos said. “Hopefully we can convince the taxpayers to support the idea.”
Hinsdale had been asking $750,000 for the property. Town appraiser Justus DeVries did a preliminary analysis of its value in September and came up with a range of $640,000 to $660,000, but said that estimate did not constitute a firm appraisal figure.
The land includes an approved nine-lot subdivision and a 10th lot with an existing home on 2 acres. Town officials plan to quickly sell the home, which has been valued at more than $200,000, to reduce the town’s costs. 
The deal also calls for the town to spend almost $50,000 to finish work on a septic system that will serve the school and the new town office building, which has been delayed by an insurance dispute that followed an early 2005 arson fire. That septic system will also have the capacity to serve the nine homes approved for the lot.
Selectmen estimated that carrying the entire $700,000 loan to a full 10-year term would add about 2.5 cents to the town tax rate, or $50 a year per $200,000 of assessed value.
They may opt, however, to sell more of the land than just the home. That will be one of many options the town will have if it owns the parcel, DeVos said.
Town officials have said the land could be used for school and town office parking, school expansion, a safer traffic pattern for the school, a town green or park, town gardens or a new post office site; be resold for private use; or offer a blend of those and other possibilities.
DeVos said selectmen will listen to residents and work with the town planning commission before decisions are made.
“We’ll sell the house immediately to lower the debt load. Then it’s time to sit back and plan,” DeVos said. “There are so many options out there…. Planning is going to have to do some homework.”
The idea of buying the land, which abuts the Ferrisburgh Central School and the planned site of a new town office building, first surfaced in 2005. After a developer approached the town this summer about extending a Vergennes sewer line to serve up to 150 homes on the parcel, the idea resurfaced, and selectmen appointed a task force to negotiate with Hinsdale. Last week they reported that the $700,000 offer had been made.
“It’s the last opportunity to secure the center of Ferrisburgh and have a say on what’s going to go there,” DeVos said. “It’s a lot of money, but when you consider the alternative it’s a better way to go.”

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