Ferrisburgh residents can weigh in on proposed Rt. 22A land sale to dealership

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh residents have a few more days if they want to petition for a special meeting to consider the proposed $350,000 sale of 34.91 town-owned acres to Denecker Real Estate Investments LLC. That deal is projected to close on or before April 24, 2014.
The selectboard first advertised the sale on Oct. 24. If a resident wishes a special town meeting to consider the merits of the proposed sale, he or she must present a petition within 30 days of that date to call for such a gathering. The petition must be signed by at least 5 percent of Ferrisburgh’s registered voters.
If no petition is presented, the selectboard will have the authority to complete the sale on its own. If the deal is closed, it would mean Denecker Chevrolet would consolidate its sales and service operations at a new Ferrisburgh location.
Ferrisburgh selectboard chairwoman Loretta Lawrence said board members were pleased not only to find a buyer, but also to help an existing town business expand in Ferrisburgh.
“We’re happy to sell local, plus the benefit of what we gain in tax revenue is a big plus,” Lawrence said.
If all sale conditions are met, Denecker Chevrolet co-owners Tom Denecker and Mike Capra would move all their operations to the prominent parcel, which lies on the intersection of Routes 7 and 22A on the Vergennes city line. The property has only about 4.5 acres that is neither tied up by conservation easements nor is classified as wetland.
Denecker Chevrolet now has a showroom on a 2.3-acre lot off Monkton Road near its intersection with Route 7. Denecker purchased that parcel in 2007 and then put up a new building there to replace an existing Sunoco station, and in 2008 Denecker moved his sales business there from nearby in Vergennes. Capra signed on as a partner in 2010.
The 2008 move came after Denecker had operated both sales and service at 14 North Main St. in Vergennes for 17 years, and after Denecker said he had concluded there was no good way to persuade motorists to turn off Route 7 to visit. At that time, service operations stayed behind, and remain there still.
Denecker has said his parent company, General Motors, strongly prefers sales and service operations at one site. In a September interview, he said the proposed new location would give him Route 22A as well as Route 7 exposure. Denecker also said he was confident he could market his two existing properties.
Ferrisburgh came into possession of the land after a complicated series of transactions involving the Vermont Land Trust and other nonprofits, former local resident Bill Pollender, and the Agency of Transportation. VTrans kept part of the larger parcel and built its park-and-ride lot on part of land, and more recently moved the former Vergennes rail station next to that lot.
Ferrisburgh first listed the remaining land for sale for $375,000 in September 2010, and in August 2011 signed a full-price contract with a potential buyer. But after more than a year, that deal’s contingencies were not met, and the land came back on the market.
In September of this year, Denecker and Capra met with the selectboard, and a month later the $350,000 deal was struck.
Selectmen hope to use sale proceeds to complete a $150,000 purchase of a home and 2 acres next to the duplicate Grange Hall that now serves as Ferrisburgh town offices and a 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 covering $6,000 of those annual costs until the parcel that is now under contract is sold.
Lawrence reconfirmed that plan last week.
“The first priority would be to pay off the Sisters property,” she said.
After paying off that property and paying commission, the sale would still apparently leave Ferrisburgh with more than $165,000 in proceeds.
Lawrence said she hopes for feedback from residents on how the selectboard should handle those remaining funds.
“We haven’t been in this position before,” she said. “(It’s) certainly subject to discussion with taxpayers.”
Contract conditions include:
•  An environmental site assessment.
•  Plan approval by GM.
•  Approval of project financing, including 80 percent of the land purchase price and $1.72 million for construction.
•  Satisfactory septic capacity on the land.
•  Permit approval, including Act 250.
The contract is available for inspection at the Ferrisburgh town office.
The selectboard is happy with that document, Lawrence said.
“I think the board was pleased with what we worked out,” she said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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