Board of Selectmen report Proposal initiates action on Evonsion property

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by Shirley Murtha

Granby resident Tom Vaughan presented his unsolicited concept for the use of the former Evonsion property at 107 East Street to the Board of Selectmen at its Nov. 20, 2017, meeting. A long-time farmer, Vaughan despaired that as the cost of insecticides and herbicides was rising, crop yields were reaching plateaus or even decreasing. Just as important to him was the fact that his children’s allergies were becoming quite severe, and he was not happy with the thought of their continued use of daily steroids. This led him to research the cause of the allergies, and he noted, “all roads lead to what’s being put on our fields and ending up on our tables.”
A plan for totally organic food production began to take shape. Vaughan looked for a town that valued agriculture as a place to put his plan in motion. He fell in love with Granby, bought property on Day Street in 2008, built a house and barn and began raising organic crops. He refers to his method as “regenerative agriculture,” i.e. repairing and amending damaged soils as the first step.

Vaughan purchased the Davis Farm on Rte. 189 (North Granby Road) in 2017 as a location to begin his organic dairy project. Eventually he plans to have an education center and farm store in the house on the property.
On this farm, and on East Street if approved, the cows would feed only on grass, no grain or corn, which are often the cause of allergenic responses in consumers up the food chain. Pasturing the cows leads to less milk production, so more acreage to facilitate more cows is necessary. The East Street property would allow him to have the size dairy farm he desires, as the Davis farm is shy on acreage and is not adequately configured for his needs.
His plan is to house 100 cows on the East Street property, where he would construct a 300’ by 75’ solar-powered barn in the center where the cows would be milked and then rotated to various paddocks. Only natural fertilizer would be used.
Although he prefers to own, not lease the property, Vaughan presented the following proposals to the BOS. His first choice is to purchase the property for $1,250,000, with the town maintaining the development rights.  His second choice is to lease it for $1,000,000 for 99 years, paying a $10,000 fee per year. Finally, he would lease the property for $500,000 for 50 years, with the same $10,000 fee per year.
The public was not permitted to comment at the Nov. 20 BOS meeting, but was allowed to do so at the Dec. 4 meeting, and several residents did
On Dec. 18, 2017, Town Manager John Ward sent out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for suggested future uses of the former Evonsion property. The deadline for the receipt of the proposals is Jan. 31, 2018.
Ward and Director of Community Development Fran Armentano, will review the submissions to determine compliance with the specifications outlined by the RFP. Those that comply will be forwarded to the Board of Selectmen, most likely by mid-February. Following a review of the proposals, the BOS may agree to move a selected proposal through the approval process. This would involve seeking comments from the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Development Commission, Agriculture Commission and perhaps others—all of which may submit comments to the Town Manager. If a proposal is approved, the town attorney will prepare a draft contract/agreement. The actual sale or lease of the property must be approved at a town meeting.
Ward reported that the state might agree to purchase the development rights to the property, further assuring that the property would remain in agriculture for future generations. Such a purchase would not interfere with any proposed agricultural use as anticipated in an RFP.
Appropriation Request for Appraisal
As part of the RFP process regarding 107 East Street, an appraisal for both full value and agricultural value is needed. The $4,000 required would come from the Open Space Fund, leaving $43,706 in that account. Local appraiser Richard McDermott has been chosen for the task. Town Manager Ward noted that this should occur as soon as possible so that the results would be available by the Jan. 31 deadline for the RFPs.
It was also noted that if the state has any interest in the property (as mentioned above), it would need an appraisal. It is hoped that the town-contracted appraisal could be used rather than the state doing its own and billing the town for it, which is the usual process.