Ferrisburgh to consider land next to town offices, school

FERRISBURGH — The Ferrisburgh selectboard on Tuesday agreed to continue talking to Charlotte resident Clark Hinsdale III about possibly buying his 2.2-acre lot behind the town office building, a parcel that also abuts Ferrisburgh Central School and United Methodist Church property.
Hinsdale — a former Ferrisburgh resident who said he planned to move back to town — contacted the FCS board and town officials about a year ago and offered the land to the town or school for $40,000.
But he said on Tuesday he would offer “considerable flexibility” on the price further if the town would put a plaque on the property honoring his Ferrisburgh ancestors, the Collins family.
Hinsdale asked selectboard members if they wanted him to “put a hold on it” for the town, or if they wanted “to make an offer” on a property that he said he believed could be useful to the town and school in the future.
“As a former and future resident of Ferrisburgh, I think it would be a great idea for you to have it,” he said.
But Hinsdale would not commit to a specific lower price, even when selectboard chairwoman Loretta Lawrence suggested the town might go along with the plan to recognize his family.
“I’m hearing you want to do it in honor of your family. $20,000? $10,000?” Lawrence said.
Hinsdale responded that a plaque “in memory of Earl Collins … would be great,” said he was also “pretty friendly to the Methodist Church,” and suggested a selectboard subcommittee could work with him to talk terms.
Hinsdale said the land is approved as a building lot, even though it is encumbered by a fire district water line and a 20-foot sewer easement.
The parcel is also part of a 34-acre tract Ferrisburgh once almost purchased from Clark Hinsdale Jr. in 2007. Residents initially voted in favor of paying $750,000 for the entire tract, but rejected the deal in a close revote.
The Hinsdales then sold the land to a third party, and when the town rebuilt the Grange Hall as its new town offices some residents suggested instead buying some of the land and building new. The Hinsdales eventually reacquired much of the parcel. 
Selectboard members who spoke on Tuesday were supportive, although Selectman Jim Warden said he would like to walk the land again. Selectman Jim Benoit said parking would remain an issue for the town office building, and commented on the price tag: “You don’t buy a half-ton pickup for that these days.”
Lawrence spoke on Wednesday and said a deal would be “worth pursuing” in an attempt to find what she called a reasonable price.
“It’s worthy of discussion,” she said.
Two residents among the dozen in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting also favored striking a deal with Hinsdale.
Bob McNary pointed to parking. The town does own the property to the immediate south of its town hall, and has a parking agreement with the Methodist church, but McNary said that arrangement with a private entity cannot be counted as permanent.
“You can’t depend on the parking agreement with the building next door,” he said.
Real estate broker Carl Cole listed several reasons to consider the purchase: a possible second access to Route 7 for the town and school in the future, a possible increase in inground septic capacity for town-owned buildings, and the unknowns of what the town’s needs might be over the next 50 years.
“I strongly urge you to pursue it,” Cole said.
The board agreed to continue speaking with Hinsdale, but at the suggestion of Selectman Steve Gutowski conditioned any purchase on holding a public presentation on a potential purchase before completing any deal.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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