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Ferrisburgh reopens search for buyer for a prime parcel

FERRISBURGH — After 11 months, the full-price buyer for a 34.9-acre parcel at the junction of Routes 7 and 22A owned by the town of Ferrisburgh has walked away from the deal.
Selectboard chairwoman Loretta Lawrence said on July 3 that Montpelier’s Eastern Development Corp. informed the town in writing before a June 30 deadline that it wished to terminate the $375,000 deal it first signed with Ferrisburgh on Aug. 1, 2011.
The board after a July 2 executive session accepted the termination and agreed to return the buyer’s $15,000 deposit, Lawrence said.
The selectboard and Eastern Development had twice agreed to extend the deal, most recently on Feb. 21, when the town gave the buyer more time to market the prominent property at the northern gateway to Vergennes to potential tenants.
Lawrence said selectboard members believed the company made a fair effort to fulfill its obligations under the purchase-and-sale agreement, even if that effort ultimately fell short.
“I have to say they really did a good job and tried … very hard to develop the land and find tenants,” Lawrence said.
She also said Eastern Development — which she believes talked to potential restaurant and bank tenants, among others — remains interested in the parcel, but the town was no longer willing to keep the land off the market for the company’s sake, at least without financial penalty.
“Their leads didn’t pan out. They’re still interested … They may come back,” Lawrence said.
At its July 2 meeting, the Ferrisburgh selectboard also agreed to renew a listing agreement with broker Matt Tedder of Pomerleau Real Estate for another six months, through Jan. 1.
The land boasts an open site with permitted wastewater capacity, level topography, high traffic volume, easy access to rail transportation, and frontage on two of the state’s busiest highways. It is zoned industrial, with retail uses conditionally permitted. 
Of the land’s 34.9 acres, 23.3 acres are subject to conservation easements that allow only agricultural uses; some of that land is also wet. On the remaining 9.7 acres, other easements restrict its building envelope to 4.5 acres.
Lawrence said Tedder told the board the commercial real estate market is improving, and board members are optimistic of a sale at or near the $375,000 asking price.
“There seems to be a little more activity in the commercial market in the last couple months, according to Pomerleau,” Lawrence said. “There are some leads out there. It’s just a matter of time. Things appear to be perking up just a little bit.”
Lawrence said Tedder said businesses in Chittenden County appear to be expanding, and that the board would consider most reasonable proposals for the land — except for a gas station/convenience store, something that almost landed there in the 1990s when a Stewart’s outlet was considered for the parcel.
“We’re open to anything except a gas station,” she said.
Selectmen eventually hope to use some of the sale proceeds to complete a $150,000 purchase of a home and 2 acres next to Ferrisburgh’s town offices and community center. 
Under terms of that sale, former owners Donald and Patience Sisters are remaining in the home indefinitely. They are paying rent that starts at $500 a month for five years.
The mortgage for the property is costing a little less than $10,000 a year, officials said, and the town is paying a small amount for exterior maintenance. The Sisters’ rent is for the meantime covering $6,000 of those annual costs.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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