Ferrisburgh land back on market, but broker says Act 250 could be obstacle

FERRISBURGH — A 34.91-acre parcel in Ferrisbrugh next to Vergennes is formally back on the market, but its listing agent said it could be a tough sell due to a four-year-old Act 250 provision.
The Ferrisburgh selectboard on Tuesday last week signed a new agreement with real estate broker Duncan Harris of Burlington’s Kingsland Company to market the property for $375,000. That’s the same asking price that has attracted three buyers, none of whom has been able to close a deal, since 2011.
This winter, Monkton resident Andrew Peterson backed out of a $337,500 agreement to buy the land because he said he could not obtain financing to expand his malt-processing company at the site, which fronts Routes 7 and 22A.
In late 2014 auto dealer Tom Denecker terminated his $350,000 deal with the town because he believed — and town officials agreed — he would not be able to obtain an Act 250 permit. An earlier deal with a Montpelier developer fell through due to its financing contingency.
The problem Denecker faced is the one that still hangs over the property, Harris said. In 2014 the Legislature created Act 250 Criterion 9L, which is designed to combat sprawl. The land lies at the edge of Vergennes, but does contain open fields, and there is farmland in the area.
Peterson said state officials generally smiled on his proposal, but they came out in force to oppose Denecker at local Act 250 hearings.
Harris said 9L hangs over the property because of its prominent, but per state officials problematic, location and immediate surroundings.
“We’re in a tough place with that piece of land,” he said, adding, “If it weren’t for 9L we’d have a car dealership there right now.”
Harris suggested that a successful future buyer of the land might have to have a plan with an agricultural component to get through Act 250.
“All we can do is keep it out there, keep marketing the property, and hope we find somebody who wants to do an agricultural project there,” he said.
Although Harris has been involved in deals that didn’t work out, selectboard members appreciated his efforts.
“Certainly you’ve gone to the mat for us several times,” said Rick Ebel, who was chosen as the board’s new chairman at the beginning of the meeting.
The board also heard from Town Clerk Gloria Warden that, with help from temporary assistant Jean Silveira, she and Assistant Clerk Pam Cousino have almost caught up with what was backlog of hundreds of pages of documents that had to be recorded. Those documents included deeds, mortgages and permits.
Warden said recording should be up to date by the end of the month, but said the board should not be hasty to end Silveira’s tenure in the town office.
“Until we’re caught up it’s hard to say” how much help will be needed to keep up with a workload that includes about 10 hours a week Cousino is supposed to dedicate to board of listers’ paperwork, she said.
Warden added that Silveira — who as the board’s minute-taker was present — had handled a number of duties, including helping customers at the window, doing paperwork and answering the phone.
“Jean has been a tremendous asset in the office,” she said.
Lister Carl Cole echoed Warden, adding it might be cheaper to pay Silveira’s wages than those of professional appraiser Justus De Vries if he has to shuffle papers to get his work done.
“The listers feel very strongly it’s important to keep things up to date,” Cole said, noting also that if recording is not up to date it also takes longer for attorneys to do title searches and thus increases costs for residents.
The board agreed with Ebel’s decision to keep Silveira on board until May 1, at which point, he said, the board will have a better sense of the workload and “maybe we’ll be in a position to make a decision.”
On March 20, the selectboard also:
•  Chose new officers. As well as electing Ebel as chairman, members picked Michael “Red” Muir as vice chairman and new member Jessica James as clerk, a position that means she will record minutes at certain special meetings.
•  Approved road foreman John Bull’s recommendation of a loader at a cost of $101,820. Residents backed that expenditure at town meeting.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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