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Changes sought in terms for sale of Ferrisburgh farm

FERRISBURGH — The Ferrisburgh selectboard last week again declined to support the sale of the DeVos Farm on Ashley Road to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, but could soon consider whether to back revised version of the deal that could also include a neighboring farmer and the Vermont Land Trust.

The only action taken on May 18 was a 3-1 vote against the proposed sale of 320 acres of the DeVos farm to F&W. Board member Red Muir voted yes, and members Jim Benoit, Chris Campbell and Chair Jessica James voted no.

Benoit and Campbell have said they are concerned about removing the 320-acre farm from the tax rolls and up to 250 of the acres from agricultural use.

James told the Independent she made a difficult decision to vote against the sale, citing the chance of a reconfigured deal.

“I know they’re going to come back with another proposal,” she said, adding, “Having the information given to us the way it was, I know we can do a lot better next time.”

Her vote would not have swung the selectboard into support of the sale, but rather have created a 2-2 tie. Board member Clark Hinsdale recused himself because he is a neighbor and also because at one point he negotiated with owners J.D. and Cheryl DeVos to buy a small portion of the land.

The possibility of a different deal arose at the meeting, James said, when Cheryl and J.D. DeVos revealed that neighboring farmer Brett Danyow had also made an offer that could involve the Vermont Land Trust.

It is at least possible, James said, that Fish & Wildlife could obtain the land to the south near Lewis Creek and its existing fishing access, land that is also best suited for wildlife habitat and land conservation. Meanwhile Danyow, with support from the land trust, could buy the land and buildings best suited for agriculture.

James said there are still moving pieces, but she said the board hopes to see an agreement along those lines at an upcoming meeting.

“That’s the hope,” she said.

NEW COMMITTEE

The board on May 17 also created and formally named the Ferrisburgh Town Center Committee (FTCC). According to meeting documents, the committee’s charge will be “to evaluate and make recommendations about our village infrastructure in the Center.

“Topics will include municipal services both current and proposed. The committee will evaluate current and potential town properties and their functions, status and future of water and sewer service, potential future community needs such as a senior center, child care, affordable housing.

“Enhancements to land use regulations to achieve the desired outcomes will be reviewed. The Ferrisburgh Town Center Committee will work closely with other standing committees of the town and overlapping membership with those committees is encouraged.”

The board appointed Rick Kerschner, Paul Hoffman, Keith Wagner and Bonnie Barnes to the committee.

ARPA MEETING

On May 17, the Ferrisburgh selectboard also decided to hold a public discussion at one of its next two meetings about the options for spending the town’s roughly $800,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Last week the board added the Ferrisburgh Volunteer Fire Department to the list of organizations seeking funding.

So far the board has given $50,000 to Maple Broadband, the Communications Union District that is working to bring high-speed internet to unserved and underserved Addison County residents.

Other requests have come from the Vergennes-Panton Water District, the Turning Point Center of Addison County, and the John Graham Shelter.

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