February 19, 2007
By ANDY KIRKALDY
FERRISBURGH — In another close vote Ferrisburgh residents on Thursday said no, 276-259, to a potential $750,000 purchase by the town of a 34-acre Route 7 parcel. The land includes a home and barn and lies next to Ferrisburgh Central School and the future home of new town offices.
Thursday’s balloting was a petitioned revote of December vote in which residents backed the deal, 242-218. The $750,000 includes $700,000 for the purchase price and $50,000 for septic work already done on the parcel, which will regardless provide in-ground septic service to the school and future town offices.
The facts that the votes were close and contradictory and that many residents may have found voting on Thursday difficult after the Valentines’ Day blizzard may make reading the tea leaves difficult for town officials.
“(Opinion) is effectively pretty much divided,” Town Clerk Chet Hawkins said. “Quite a few people like it, and quite a few people don’t like it. What to do is the next question.”
Selectmen will consider their next move on Tuesday night. Technically, they voided their deal with landowner Clark Hinsdale Jr. of Charlotte before Thursday’s vote because of areas of possible contamination that showed up in a site inspection of the property before the vote. But both Hinsdale and selectmen said they would try to work out a new contract if the vote was favorable.
Selectmen said they believed the contamination issues — including material from a former barn that burned, a farm dump, and a milking parlor floor drain that probably leached some cleaners into the ground — were not serious, and Hinsdale said he would handle clean-up costs.
Hinsdale also offered in writing to remove the house and the barn, around which most of the possible contamination sites are clustered, from the deal. Those properties are being appraised, and he offered to lower the sale price by the appraisal amount.
Selectboard Chairman Larry Simino said the board does not necessarily consider Thursday’s vote to be the end of the line for the proposal given all the factors involved and the potential options for a new deal.
“We’ll talk with Clark and see if we can come up with something we can go back to the voters with,” Simino said. “There are a number of things we can do.”
One option might simply be to consider the same question, hopefully on a date when the town isn’t digging out from two or three feet of now.
“That’s the other thing. Do we do a revote because of the weather? It costs us about $300, but do we do that in fairness to everybody?” Simino said.
Hawkins said some voters on Thursday wondered if the vote could be rescheduled, but the law does not allow for it. In any case, Thursday’s 27.7 percent turnout topped December’s 23.8 percent turnout.
Hawkins credited the town’s highway department.
“The road crew did a great job. There was a lot of snow,” he said. “You could tell when they got a road done. Those people would come in and vote.’
Proponents of the deal believe it will allow Ferrisburgh to control what happens on a parcel that is the last in Route 7 village with soils suitable for in-ground septic systems.
They envision a town center including a mix of public and private uses, possibly including parking for the school and town offices, a new post office, senior housing, and light businesses and other private development. Selectmen say any future use or resale of the property would be determined by residents.
Opponents, who petitioned for last week’s revote, generally question the need for the purchase, its immediate cost, and its immediate and potential future impact on the town’s taxes.
The land has the only soils suitable for in-ground septic systems in the village area, and the town and the state has approved it for a residential subdivision, its likely destiny if Ferrisburgh does not strike a deal for it.