I am writing in support of a town-wide vote on the proposals for 107 East St. Our Selectmen are to be commended for their time and dedication but the implications of this decision are far reaching and the responsibility should be borne by all town residents, not just the five Selectmen. The suggestion of yet another committee to study this property will delay the decision for months and would likely result in Granby losing a golden opportunity to be home to the only certified organic dairy farm in Connecticut.
This parcel is 125 acres, 88 acres of which is prime farmland. The town purchased the land in 2012 for $2,250,000 after a townwide vote in favor of a package of capital improvements. Residents did not have the opportunity to vote on individual line items, the approval for the farm purchase was included with essential repairs for the Silver St bridge and football fields for the high school. Many residents were resentful of being made to vote on a package, a town-wide vote on the future of 107 East St would put the responsibility back on the townspeople.
The town has since entered into a license agreement with Richard Woodger (Rockwood Farms, Mass.) and Stanley Hayes (House of Hayes, Granby) for a term of five years that expires this year. The town receives an income of just under $10,000 per year for this license. I understand this is the current rate for agricultural land but it’s a drop in the ocean compared with the interest being paid on the original loan.
A land use study conducted in 2014 by the Town Owned Land Study Committee, concluded that the best use of this land was for active agriculture. The majority of residents agreed with this. Continued agricultural use is also in line with the 10-Year Plan of Conservation and Development. With the continued decline in school population, our aging demographic, and site characteristics that do not make development an attractive option, I do not believe that keeping this asset on our books is fiscally responsible.
Thomas Vaughan (Westmeadow Farm, Granby) approached the town last August with an offer to purchase without development rights, his plan is to use it as a certified organic dairy farm in conjunction with Rossmore Farm (the old Davis Farm). Farm buildings on the land would result in property taxes of around $40,000 per year. As this was an unsolicited bid, the selectmen voted in November to put out an RFP inviting bids for sale and lease. The board of selectmen have voted to consider two of the proposals; Vaughan’s offer to purchase without development rights for $1,250,000 and Hayes offer to lease for 25 years at $10,000 for the first year with a 1 percent per year annual increase thereafter. Both proposals are available on the town website. An appraisal received by the town has not been made public. The state has indicated that it has the budget and may have interest in purchasing the development rights for this property. No figure has been given but development rights generally equate to 50-60 percent of the value.
With the recent property revaluation and the loss of state funds, the town is desperately in need of additional income to relieve the tax burden on residents. The Hayes family has worked the land for generations and deserves our respect and admiration but the town has a responsibility to all its residents. A sale will not only pay down a portion of our debt but will provide ongoing income from property taxes, promote Granby and attract customers that will visit and spend money at other town businesses.
This is our town, our farm and our future, let it be our vote that makes the decision!