Ferrisburgh boards to talk about land deal, future plans

FERRISBURGH — The Ferrisburgh selectboard on June 18 said it would sit down with the Ferrisburgh Central School board this summer to discuss the $40,000 offer to either board of a 2-acre parcel that abuts both town and central school property.
When they meet, the boards will also talk about complex larger land ownership and use issues near the town office building and the adjacent elementary school. Those issues include access to Route 7 and parking for town offices, ownership of proposed recreation facilities, and the possible impact of future Addison Northwest Supervisory Union school unification.
This past Tuesday, the selectboard met with FCS board chairman David Tatlock, who was there because school board members reached consensus at a June 13 meeting the land might be better off owned by the town, but were willing to consider a school purchase if the selectboard was not interested.
“We didn’t come to any conclusion, but there were enough people who thought it might be of interest to the town,” Tatlock said. “Before we went ahead, we wanted to see what your thoughts were on it.”
Charlotte resident Clark Hinsdale is offering the land to the town. He intends to subdivide it from a larger parcel and sell the rest as a home lot. A road runs through the land that provides access to Route 7 through a neighboring subdivision.
Tatlock said later in the week he had spoken to Hinsdale, who told Tatlock he was willing to wait until 2014 to strike a deal with Ferrisburgh.
When the two Ferrisburgh boards meet, probably in August, Tatlock said, they will also discuss long-term plans and ownership of land in the area.
For example, the town’s recreation committee is now fundraising for a pavilion to cover a skating rink in the winter and a basketball court in the summer, a facility to be surrounded by a walking path. Plans call for that facility to be built on school-owned land.
But officials at the June 18 selectboard meeting discussed whether in the long run the town should own the parcel, particularly if the question of full ANwSU unification and ownership of school facilities comes up again.
Selectboard members on June 18 also listened to several residents who urged town officials to consider Hinsdale’s land sale offer.
One of those residents was real estate broker Carl Cole, who said the land — which lies behind the town office building and north of the school, and also abuts and sits south of a residential subdivision with an access to Route 7 — is worth more than the asking price even with a small wetland that could complicate permitting.
Although the land has been discussed as a site for more parking for town offices, Cole said the deal was too good to pass up regardless of any future use, including possibly a second way to reach Route 7 from town property.
“I’m not going to … guess what the town’s needs will be 50 years from now,” Cole said.
Resident George Gardner favored town, not school, ownership.
“As a taxpayer, I would be much more inclined to see the town buy it,” said Gardner.
The selectboard, according to chairwoman Loretta Lawrence, had not at first been interested in Hinsdale’s offer because the town had already purchased a home and land south of the town office building from the Sisters family, who are renting the home back from Ferrisburgh. 
“I did tell David (Tatlock) we bought the Sisters property for parking,” said Lawrence.
But other residents joined Cole and Gardner in urging officials to consider the offer. Bob McNary said the structure on the Sisters property might be needed at some point and also require parking, and that the home is not currently available.
“It may be reasonable for you to buy it, because that (Sisters) property may be tied up for 10, 15 years, (and) we didn’t pay $100,000 for a parking lot,” McNary said.
Ferrisburgh road foreman John Bull urged the purchase of the land by the town, not the school. Bull, echoing a point also made by Tatlock, said if the ANwSU towns ever voted to unify, the town would thus still control the property.
“For $40,000 I think it’s a hell of a deal,” Bull said, assuming Ferrisburgh doesn’t “give it away 10 years down the road.”
Bull and Selectman Jim Warden were two who urged both boards to talk about long-range ownership issues and plans.
One long-range question is where the town will hold its votes. When the school board met on June 13, it did discuss the possibilities of playing fields or a solar array on the land, but Tatlock said members kept returning to whether votes should be held at the town office building, and not at FCS, as they have been historically since its construction.
Security is a growing concern at schools, he said, while votes disrupt the FCS schedule. But limited parking at the town office building is one problem that has kept balloting at the school.
“The need for parking kept coming up … and moving voting here,” Tatlock said.
But Warden said hundreds of cars trying to get on and off Route 7 might be a recipe for disaster, and he would like to see access issues resolved.  
“That would be a suicide alley to vote here,” Warden said.
Warden then suggested the more comprehensive look at the properties, and the boards agreed to meet.
“I don’t think we should put that off,” Warden said. “We should sit down and talk.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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