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UPDATE: More details on Middlebury College purchase of Inn on the Green

Editor’s note: This version of the story provides many more details and perspective than the version posted on this website Aug. 20.

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College is planning to buy the Inn on the Green early next month to help solve temporary excess enrollment issues, the college announced on Friday.

Starting next month 25 juniors and seniors will live on the South Pleasant Street property, which includes 12 rooms and a carriage house.

“The inn property offers a convenient location within close walking distance to campus and amenities,” college officials said in a release. “Our plan is to resell the property at a later date for use as an inn serving Addison County, visiting families, alumni and tourists.”

The college expects to own the property for only about three years, officials said.

The Independent was not able to reach the inn’s current owners, Chris and Chelsea Griggs, by phone or in person this past Friday afternoon, but a guest at the inn said he’d heard that the weekend of Aug. 20-21 was the last it would be open.

The Griggses bought the inn in December 2018.

EXTRA STUDENTS

Middlebury received a record number of applications last year and will welcome more than 300 additional students for the fall 2021 semester, which begins Sept. 13. Enrollment was 2,864 as of last week but that number was expected to dip slightly, said Associate Vice President for Public Affairs Julia Ferrante.

The college has spent the past year converting campus office spaces into residential housing to accommodate more than 140 additional student beds, and for the first time in the college’s history it has opened up its Bread Loaf campus in Ripton to undergraduates, creating a 90-student “intentional community” for the 2021-22 school year.

In addition to purchasing the Inn on the Green, the college has also reserved five rooms at the Middlebury Inn on Court Square and 10 rooms with 20 beds at the Courtyard Marriot on Route 7 South, Ferrante told the Independent.

The sudden enrollment spike is in part due to the pandemic, according to a statement posted on the college website earlier this summer.

“Middlebury College continues to respond to and manage the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes accommodating students who opted for leaves of absence, students whose study abroad programs were canceled, and a larger than usual number of first-year students, due to record applications. Our two highest priorities are responsibly managing the health and safety of our community and maximizing access to an in-person education for our students.”

It’s too early to tell what spring 2022 enrollment will be, Ferrante said, but the college expects to have a larger than normal February graduating class.

STUDENT-READY

According to its website, the Inn on the Green has a total capacity of 26-28 guests. One of its rooms can accommodate up to four guests, two rooms can accommodate up to three guests and the rest are designed for two.

Room rates ranged from $165 to $315 per night, depending on the room and the season.

If the inn were booked solid for an entire year, the average cost per guest per night at the currently advertised rates would be roughly $94.

Middlebury College plans to purchase the inn for $1.285 million, according an FAQ on its website. That’s $361,000, or 39%, more than the $924,000 paid by Griggs Family Properties Inc. in 2018, according to public records.

The Inn had been on the market when the college began exploring additional housing options for the coming academic year, so college officials approached the Griggses about a possible purchase, according to the FAQ.

“We have been in contact with the abutting property owners and town officials and they support our plans,” college officials said.

The inn’s buildings were renovated in 2018 and are equipped with sprinkler systems and most of the other requirements for student housing, Director of Media Relations Sarah Ray told the Independent.

“There will be some small improvements that will need to be made, but none are significant, costly or time-consuming,” Ray said.

COMMUNITY CONCERNS

News of the pending sale has prompted concerns among some local residents.

“Oh Wow more tax revenue lost,” wrote one reader on the Independent’s Facebook page. “Burden upon residents is going to go up so much, no one will be able to afford living at 05753.”

But according to town Assessor Alison Joseph, Middlebury College will continue to pay property taxes at the same rate as the current owners.

In 2019 the town assessed the Inn on the Green at $901,500.

The current year’s tax bill for the property is $21,716, Joseph told the Independent.

That represents a fraction of the total taxes Middlebury College pays to the town every year.

“Even though we are a nonprofit, the college is the town’s largest taxpayer as it is required to pay taxes on all property being used for purposes that are not directly tied to the mission of educating students,” Ray told the Independent in response to a request for economic data.

Middlebury paid $1,027,230 in taxes in 2020-21.

BEYOND TAXES

“Middlebury College’s economic impact and its role as a leading employer in the town of Middlebury, Addison County, and Vermont are frequently topics of discussion in the local community and at the state level,” college officials acknowledged in a November 2014 economic impact study, which can be found online at tinyurl.com/Midd2014.

The study was produced to answer “questions commonly asked by local residents, town officials, state representatives, college employees, and others,” officials said. “It also provides examples of the institution’s voluntary efforts to improve the town’s quality of life.”

The college plans to release its next economic impact study within the next two years, Ray said. In the meantime, she provided the following information in response to the Independent’s request for updated data.

“The town and community receive funding annually as a direct result of the economic impact of the college,” Ray said.

In fiscal year 2020-21 that funding exceeded $2.8 million and fell into four categories:

•  Donations to nonprofits: $430,310, including a Child Care Consortium grant of $382,345 paid to the United Way of Addison County and a donation of $47,965 to Town Hall Theater.

•  Taxes: As noted above the college paid more than $1 million in taxes last year.

•  Voluntary payments: According to a long-term town-gown agreement, the college makes voluntary payments to the town of Middlebury “in lieu of taxes,” based on the annual performance of its endowment. In 2020-21 the college made a payment of $295,697. According to a similar agreement it also paid the town of Ripton $182,550.

•  Other town support: The college paid $282,614 toward the town’s new municipal building on Main Street and recreation center on Creek Road, both of which were completed in 2016. The college also pays $600,000 a year for the Cross Street Bridge (2010), as part of a 30-year commitment to pay $9 million toward the $16 million project.

The $2.8 million detailed above represents an increase of $779,000, or 38%, since 2013.

Though current information is not available, the 2014 economic impact report also noted the following data from 2011:

•  The largest employer in Addison County and the eighth-largest employer in Vermont at the time, Middlebury College paid $60.6 million in wages and $19 million in benefits.

•  Students spent $4.5 million in the town of Middlebury.

•  College expenditures created 607 jobs elsewhere in Addison County.

For more information about the upcoming academic year, as well as the latest COVID-related announcements, visit middlebury.edu/office/covid-19-updates.

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