Stanley Hayes of the House of Hayes, was allowed to give a presentation to open the hearing. After that, comments were restricted to three minutes each.
Hayes read from a prepared statement that land is a shrinking resource in town; having a long-term lease is a hedge against losing this valuable piece and allows a long-term plan to rotate crops. Because it is located right next to the Hayes farm, costs are reduced and the ability to use natural cow manure as a primary fertilizer is enhanced. He understands the Board of Finance’s rejection of a 25-year lease, but now that the development rights might be sold, he wonders what effect that might have on the BOF opinion. Selling the development rights essentially prohibits many of the options for future uses the town is trying to preserve by rejecting his long-term lease. He encouraged the board to determine what they want to do regarding sale of the rights before making a decision on the Hayes proposal.
Melissa Migliaccio commented that an uninvited offer set this whole thing in motion; did the townspeople really want to sell this land? Questioned the process that allowed the proposal to proceed before finding out what residents want.
Barry Avery said that the earth sometimes takes a long time to let us know that we are poisoning it (think DDT, thalidomide); we are now starting to see the side effects of glyphosate itself and the development of resistance to it; we need to insist that Granby farmers not use it.
Nelson Toussaint said residents have not been treated well, it has not been a fair and honest process; the RFP policy is flawed —no plan, no marketing, selectmen-imposed restriction that only agriculture be allowed at 107 East Street. Noting Land Trust acquisitions as an example, says that too much of the town’s land (40 percent) is prevented from development, thereby restricting future use.
Rosemary Powers Taxes are up again, town needs additional income to relieve tax burden, should not have passed up on the Vaughan proposal. (Note: money from sale would have no effect on taxes, can be used only on capital projects such as bridge repair.)
Anna Sogliuzzo The process was long and painful for those involved; residents should have been allowed to vote on purchase of 107 East Street as a line item, not combined with other needed projects, we overpaid. Organic dairy would have been good for Granby, attract people who would spend money here. Disagreed with BOF’s statement that the sale of the property would be “not prudent, no current need for cash,” as the town is in dire need of income to relieve the tax burden. Wants the RFPs to be re-issued.
Susan Regan In the future, wants to get residents more involved in the early stages, take a poll, let people vote on whether they want to sell the land/development rights or not. First Selectman Kuhnly replied: The Town Owned Land Study Committee did just that; 70 percent of the people who replied wanted to keep the property for agricultural use.
Morey Miller supports leasing to Hayes; have to look not just at the financial, but also to what the farmland can do for our kids — referred to the 4-H work the Hayes promote, seeing troubled kids turn their lives around, seeing youngsters develop respect for the land. Not against use of herbicides if applied correctly by licensed people.
Herb Hulbert does not favor leasing to Hayes, says this is about what is fiscally good for the town, not subsidizing a family that happens to have been here a long time. Believes that 80 percent of corn produced there goes to Woodger who lives in Massachusetts. The property has lost value and we need to recoup some of our loss.
Nigel Palmer need to have organic practices in local farming to produce nutrient-rich food; many allergies and intestinal tract diseases such as leaky gut and Crohn’s trace back to diet and exposure to harmful chemicals; eliminate use of Round-up.
Lee Barba was shocked to learn that glyphosate was being used by DPW; pleased that herbicide committee recommends against it; ashamed of town’s actions that lead to withdrawal of Vaughan proposal
Sarah Sabbagh was energized at start of process, with a million-plus dollars to be invested in town; wants re-issue of RFPs; said Hayes did not meet specifications (see response to Avery above.) Wants taxpayers, the owners of 107 East Street, to be protected from liability incurred from use of Round-up. Also criticized the acceptance of proposals that did not meet the RFP requirements. Town Manager Ward replied that the wording of the RFP policy allows for alterations to be made as the process goes forward. When all three proposers indicated to him that the 3 percent COLA increase he was asking for was unreasonable, he thought it was unfair to continue to ask for it and accepted those with less.
Karen McNey yes, taxes continue to go up, we all make investments in what is important to us; she prefers the higher taxes in order to keep the farmlands, the rural nature of Granby; in favor of Hayes proposal, not in favor of selling development rights.
Peggy Lareau approves the Hayes’ 25-year lease proposal; the Town Owned Land Study Committee recommended long-term leases as a better way for farmers to do right by the land: amend the soil, rotate crops. Hopes that Hayes will use less Round-up on the property.
Lynn Guelzow supports leasing to Hayes; criticized process as being rushed, needed independent analysis of impact of Vaughan’s proposal on other farmers, the town, etc.
Jim Glenney noted that the town once won a trifecta of state school sports championships but missed one here: we could have had Holcomb Farm, the Garlic Farm and the organic dairy farm for non-chemicalized food.
Ron Winsor wants town to reject Hayes, do another set of RFPs or set the property up so that the whole town can use it for recreation, gardening, etc.; a 25-year lease keeps the land from being used by anyone other than the House of Hayes. Questioned the willingness to take such a loss on the property. Criticized a selectman reading an opinion piece to the Planning and Zoning Commission, using position of power unfairly.
Steven Hayes asks residents to not let Round-up be an issue in whether to accept the House of Hayes proposal. If the town mandates no use of the chemical, they simply won’t use it. Although they are conventional farmers, everything done so far by the Hayes meets all regulations.
Aaron Wiebe was excited by the prospect of having an organic dairy, wonders why someone who cared so much and had invested so much step away from the process? “There is bad stuff in our food—let’s all do this organic thing!”
Debby Crossett feels it is unreasonable to think that the bond taken out for 107 East Street can be paid off by selling the property to one farmer; appreciated the fact that this whole process could be followed online.
Tom Grimaldi favors selling the property for fiscal reasons; our bridges need work, the money could help pay for that; not in favor of a 25-year lease.
Herb Hulbert asked if BOS accepts Hayes proposal, will it go to a town vote? Reply from First Selectman Kuhnly: yes, it will follow the steps of the process. Also asked exactly what do “development rights” mean? Town Manager Ward: it means the land cannot be used for any non-agricultural purposes.
Roger Hayes referring to the previous comments: that means no sports or park activities; is not in favor of selling development rights.
Susan Regan encouraged all residents to read the most recent Plan of Development (October 2016) to understand the town’s plan. Requests again that the town develop a marketing plan, strategy and tactics if considering the sale of town property.
Seth Lapuk felt that without confirmation of Vaughan’s numbers, it would have been a risk to sell the property; in the future, good data is needed.
Joan Palmer feels that we should continue to strive for more organic farming, the organic milk we buy in town mostly comes from dairies located a great distance away; feels that both Hayes and Vaughan families have integrity and hopes that perhaps they can work something out.
First Selectman Kuhnly closed the public hearing with a plea that residents stop the personal attacks on those who have a different opinion than their own. “There is terrible stuff on social media. Please just stop.”
Comments from regular BOS Meeting April 17
Jerry Ledger asked the Board to consider extending the voting hours for the budget referendum to 6 a.m. – 8 p.m. as they are for elections. He feels that the noon to 8 p.m. makes it impossible for some to participate.
Nigel Palmer, fairly new to Granby government, commented that he had gone to meetings of the Herbicide and Pesticide Committee and was very impressed with both the way the members went about their work and also the quality of their report.