Shoreham seeks ideas for 312-acre ‘Farnham’ parcel

SHOREHAM — Shoreham officials are seeking their fellow residents’ input on how to use a 312-acre piece of town-owned land in and near the village that could accommodate a variety of uses, including affordable housing, a nature trail and/or a small commercial development.
At issue is the so-called Farnham, or “Connor” property, which Shoreham residents voted 271-58 to purchase at the 1999 town meeting for $130,000. Local leaders recommended the purchase because of the parcel’s close proximity to the village and because a portion of it could be used for a $2 million municipal sewer system, which residents also approved in 1999, by a 272-61 tally.
At the same time, the Shoreham selectboard created a committee to do some master planning for the property, which borders a sizable stretch of Route 22A and a small portion of Main Street. It extends west into a section of Cedar Swamp. It includes a copious amount of farmland, including some expansive hay fields just west of 22A.
Linda Oaks is a member of the “Farnham Task Force II,” representing the town’s latest effort to put the 312-acre parcel to good use for Shoreham residents. The task force has been meeting since last 2016, picking up where the 1999 group left off. Chaired by Selectman Will Stevens, the six-person panel will present a report — including a menu of possible uses for the land — to the town selectboard by Dec. 31. In the meantime, he and his colleagues want to get more ideas and opinions from residents at the task force’s regularly scheduled meetings and at the annual Shoreham Apple Fest on Sept. 16. The task force meets the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at the town offices.
“There are no limitations,” Oaks said of the ideas people might want to submit for the property.
And the task force has jotted down a lot of ideas during the past year and a half.
Residents have pitched such options as a memory center, senior housing, low-cost housing and affordable housing through Habitat for Humanity. Others have recommended a solar array, ongoing agricultural uses and conserving the property through a land trust, according to Oaks.
Indeed, current zoning and a nearby municipal sewer system allows Shoreham residents to dream big about what the Farnham property could deliver.
Approximately 174 of the total 312 acres is zoned agricultural-residential — though an estimated 92 acres of that is swamp, according to a municipal inventory of the property. Around 30 acres is in the low-density residential district, with 22 acres in the village-commercial district. The remaining 81 acres is in the village-residential zoning district, of which 63 acres could potentially be developed, according to town officials.
Task force members believe they’ve already found an ideal use for a small portion of the land. Members are evaluating a narrow, approximately 5-acre strip of property in the village to use as a municipal park. The park would begin at Main Street and run along Route 22A, on the east side of the Farnham property.
“There’s not much that can be done with that property because of ledge and topography,” Oaks explained of the targeted park acreage. “We felt it would also offer us a chance to have a green perimeter on that side, separating 22A from the Farnham property.”
While too small to accommodate ball fields, the park land could host some walking trails, according to Oaks.
“We’re talking about perhaps a picnic area, and a dog park was mentioned by someone as a possibility, maybe a nature trail for kids at the (Shoreham) school,” she said.
Oaks noted that if endowed with some trails and related crosswalks, the new park could provide Shoreham pedestrians with clear and safe passage to village amenities like the bank, gas station/convenience store, clinic and historical society headquarters.
“There’s potential there,” she said.
The Addison County Regional Planning Commission is helping the task force in its park planning.
Stevens said it will be up to the selectboard to decide which if any of the Farnham property recommendations it decides to pursue on behalf of the community. The board could choose to give residents a say through a townwide vote.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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