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Ferrisburgh voters approve land purchase

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December 14, 2006

By ANDY KIRKALDY

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh voters on Tuesday backed the $750,000 purchase of a key 34-acre village parcel, but the margin was not overwhelming: With 24 percent of possible voters turning out, residents supported the deal, which includes $50,000 to finish an in-ground septic system, 242-218.

Ferrisburgh officials recommended the purchase and said they were happy with the yes vote, but that they would have preferred a margin larger than 52.6-47.4 percent.

“I was disappointed it was so close,” said selectboard Chairman Larry Simino. “This is the last chance for the town (residents) to say what will happen in the middle of their community.”

The Route 7 parcel, which includes a home on 2 acres and an approved nine-lot subdivision on the remaining 32 acres, lies next to Ferrisburgh Central School and the future home of new town offices, about two miles north of Vergennes.

Town officials envision the land, which has the only soil in the area suitable for in-ground septic systems, as part of a town center along with existing town uses, churches, homes and businesses.

They have said proposed uses for the land include playing fields, a safer traffic pattern for the school, parking for the school and planned new town offices, park and garden space, a post office, and private ventures, the nature of which would be determined in the future by town officials and residents.

This past summer the land was also optioned by a Chittenden County developer who proposed extending a Vergennes sewer line to serve 100 or more homes and businesses on the parcel, plus other buildings in the neighborhood. Ferrisburgh rejected that preliminary proposal after a series of public hearings.

Opponents of the town’s land purchase said they were concerned that even with the planned resale of the home and possibly more of the parcel in the future that the deal would end up costing taxpayers more money in the long run.

To start with, Ferrisburgh officials estimated that the purchase of land now owned by the Hinsdale family of Charlotte will add $22 of annual property taxes per $100,000 of assessed value, or $44 a year for a $200,000 home for the life of a projected 10-year note. The sale of any of the land or the home will reduce the length of the loan; officials plan to market the home, assessed at $243,000, in the spring. 

Simino and planning commission Chairman Ted Ingraham acknowledged that opponents may petition for a revote before the Jan. 13 deadline for doing so, but that officials will in the meantime proceed toward closing the deal.

“I don’t know if there will be a recall, but we will move forward with financing … at this point that’s the best we can do,” Ingraham said. “We realize it (a petition) is possible, and the opposition has been pretty vocal.”

Simino said he believed the town could close the deal by the March deadline even if another vote had to be scheduled.

“We’ve got until the end of February on the outside,” Simino said. 

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