Ferrisburgh looks at real estate deals

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh selectmen on Tuesday took steps to open public discussion about the town’s possible purchase of one property and — in a move they say is related — to list for sale a town-owned 9.37-acre parcel next to the Agency of Transportation’s Route 22A commuter lot.
The potential purchase — subject to voter approval in November — is of a home and 2.01 acres next to the town office building on Route 7. The land lies south and west of the Grange Hall lot and also abuts Ferrisburgh Central School.
The property is owned by Donald and Patience Sisters, who under the terms of a proposed $150,000 sale would remain in the home indefinitely. They would pay rent that starts at $500 a month for five years, escalates to $550 a month for the next five years, and rises to $650 a month for another five years.
Officials said the sale price was based on the property’s assessment of $128,200. According to Vermont Department of Taxes calculations, Ferrisburgh real estate is assessed at a little more than 88 percent of value; using that ratio, the Sisters property would be valued at about $145,500.
Selectmen said on Tuesday they would at their Aug. 17 meeting set a public meeting date before the November election to discuss the purchase. They said they would explain both the reasons they believe the town should go ahead with the deal and their plans to finance it — through the sale of the Route 22A property, and using the rent to help offset a mortgage until that sale happens.
Town officials said the obvious use for the property would be to expand parking for the town office building, but that other now-unforeseen uses could crop up.
“It makes sense to buy this now for the future of Ferrisburgh,” said selectboard chairwoman Loretta Lawrence last week. “Down the road we could say we wished we bought that lot. Now is a good time to explore that.”
Town Clerk Chet Hawkins on Tuesday listed possible benefits. He said the Sisters property would offer a second access to the town offices from Route 7 and thus “would provide safer access and egress,” its 2 acres could provide more parking, and the land not only wraps around the Grange Hall to the south and west, but also abuts Ferrisburgh Central School.
Lister Carl Cole also said the property could offer long-term value, even expansion room for town offices.
“We don’t know what the town’s needs will be 50 years from now,” Cole said.
Selectmen’s first choice for financing the purchase is the sale of the Route 22A property, with any luck in a timely manner. The AOT in 2008 deeded the land to Ferrisburgh as the last step of a complex deal that created the AOT commuter lot and preserved much of what had been a 45-acre parcel. Ferrisburgh also owns about 22 acres next to the parcel, about 13 of which are wetlands and another 9.7 of which can only be farmed.
On Tuesday, representatives of Burlington’s Pomerleau Real Estate met with the selectboard for a second time and discussed an asking price of up to $415,000 for the 9.37 acres.
Selectmen agreed to meet again with the Pomerleau brokers at the board’s Aug. 17 meeting, at which a signed listing agreement is probable.
“We’re certainly interested in getting this property on the market,” Lawrence said.
Selectmen and brokers said a listing agreement would make a sale conditional on voter approval, but that voters in November could also give selectmen authority to sell the property at a price to be determined by the marketplace. Such an approval would make the parcel more marketable, the brokers said.
The land is zoned industrial, permitting a number of conditional uses, including light manufacturing, agricultural and commercial. Cole, a real estate broker who has advised selectmen about both properties, said there is septic capacity on the site and Vergennes municipal sewer is not needed to develop the property.
If the Route 22A parcel does not sell in a timely manner, Cole said a mortgage for the entire $150,000 would cost a little less than $10,000 a year, while the Sisters’ rent would add up to $6,000 a year. A Vermont Department of Labor and Industry inspection found “very little” maintenance work needed on the home, he said, and would add little to the town’s short-term bottom line.
Cole said he believes the long-term benefits of owning the Sisters property outweigh the potential small cost of ownership while waiting for the Route 22A property to sell, and pointed to the net profit the town would turn from the two deals.
“It might be a slight general fund issue for a couple years,” he said.
Town officials said it’s time to start sharing these long-discussed details with residents.
“I think we need to start getting the word out about what we plan to do and how we plan to do it,” Cole said.
Lawrence said although selectmen believe the Sisters deal is worth pursuing, the decision will ultimately rest with residents.
“The wheels are in motion,” she said. “They may well say, ‘Well, we don’t want it.’ But we felt we should present it to them.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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