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Letter to the Editor: Town ignores land rights in threats to farmers over trees

The Town of Ferrisburgh’s aggressive and threatening response to the farm family that cut hedgerow trees along Arnold Bay Road recently is a gross violation of property rights and raises the concept of NIMBY-ism in Vermont to new and absurd heights. 
At issue is the fact that the Vorsteveld family removed trees and overgrown brush from farmland that they own and for which they dutifully pay taxes. For this “crime,” the Town of Ferrisburgh is now threatening this farm with hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and “injunctive relief,” given that this hedgerow vegetation fell within the “right of way” of Arnold Bay Road.
This is an absurd absconsion of property rights. If the Town of Ferrisburgh feels it needs to widen roads, re-dig drainage ditches or selectively cut trees in order to maintain a safe roadway, invoking a public right of way makes sense. If the Town of Ferrisburgh wants to own the right to micromanage all decisions regarding a property including which overgrown weed-trees may be removed or not, perhaps Ferrisburgh should make the rightful owner of the property a fair-market offer for the land in question. At the very least, Ferrisburgh should forgive, now and retrospectively, all property tax assessed on said land.
I have driven down Arnold Bay Road many times recently and I am struck by two observations. First, the alleged criminal tree-removal changes, but in no meaningful way degrades, the pastoral beauty of the Vorsteveld property. Second, there is a remarkable amount of “estate building” going on in the area, almost entirely on the western, lakefront side of the road. 
I would presume that folks who are moved to spend the millions necessary to assemble such estates here do so, at least in part, because they are drawn to a state with a landscape of unique and remarkable beauty. I also presume that the complaints from the Vorsteveld’s lakeside neighbors are very likely associated with Ferrisburgh’s disproportionate response and bullying, lawyered-up threats.
The irony here is that the very bucolic beauty that attracts folks to this state is the direct effect of a viable agrarian economy acting upon the landscape. Why is it then that the very farms that help create and maintain that beauty are now so suddenly threatened with crippling fines for participating in the simple act of maintaining a productive farm?
To those retired investment bankers who think there is an egregious shortage of trees on other folk’s property, I encourage you to plant and maintain your own land with all the passion you so clearly possess. To the Vorsteveld’s I say fight the good fight against this usurpation of your property rights. If justice fails to prevail, perhaps you could recoup some of your losses by re-purposing the land in question. I hear that pig farms are very profitable …
Stephen M. Koller
Bridport

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