I watched the August 19 Special Meeting via Zoom and was encouraged when Selectman Ballard took the initiative to delineate the proposal by Agbotic for a portion of 107 East St. His insight to analyze the proposal into, what seems to be, a plus for the town. We have been burdened with a 3.3-million-dollar debt (at $170,000. per year) shoved down our throats by John Adams and Bill Smith and the BOS, while leadership has sat idly by hemming and hawing and doing nothing substantive. We did not have an opportunity to vote on the purchase separately in 2012, because it was part of a package deal.
What happened after Ballard’s presentation was a public tragedy. First Selectman Kuhnly publicly and personally attacked Selectman Ballard for his decision to present his analysis of the Agbotic proposal (during the Selectman’s Report section of the Agenda) without first submitting it to the entire board.
While that may be the proper procedure, Ballard made a compelling argument for more discussion. But for Kuhnly to berate him as he did was one of the most unprofessional and petty things that I have ever seen at a public meeting. It showed Kuhnly’s inability to properly conduct a meeting and he should publicly apologize to Ballard. This was not the first time Kuhnly has derided people in public.
Initiative is something that is lacking on the BOS. You are the supposed leaders of our town, yet we sit through meeting after meeting without any progress that would make a real difference in our lives. We should all thank Selectman Ballard for his resourcefulness.
Apparently a “glitch” occurred during the recording of the meeting, so there is no video of the encounter. The town should record each Zoom meeting so there is a backup somewhere.
Fast forward to the Sept. 8 BOS meeting where the Agbotic proposal was considered again. The board members focused on two things: dollars and vision for the town. While the dollar return was a long-term investment and several parts were not quite fleshed out, Kuhnly immediately took the position that the property should remain in the possession of the town until who knows when, because that is what he remembers from a town-wide survey. The 2015 Town-Owned Land Study Committee Report recommended the use as agricultural. The past two offers were for cutting edge agricultural projects that would have reinforced Granby’s farming roots.
So, without further input from the public, the board voted 4 yes (Kuhnly, King, Ohannessian and Neumann) to 1 no (Ballard) to reject the Agbotic proposal and save 107 East St. for some future use—it’s property 2, visionary projects 0. Watch the meeting on GCTV and see for yourself.
Due diligence went out the door and emotions took over. Kuhnly has no regard for public input and needs to remember for whom he works.
The Board of Finance should have been consulted before this debacle—they have the expertise.
Once again, government tells us what’s good for us.
Once again it has been demonstrated how deeply flawed our town government process is. The BOS have decided for the residents that we will continue to save the 107 East St parcel regardless of any financial benefit that might be had.
It has been a five-month fiasco with no clear process to evaluate the offer from Agbotic, and the lack of respect shown to a company that was seeking to build a long-term relationship with our town is nothing short of astounding. Questions from Agbotic to the Town Manager fell on deaf ears, no attempt was made to evaluate the financial implications until Selectman Glenn Ballard took it upon himself to research and summarize it for the BOS and public. The offer was discussed on at least two occasions by the BOS without the offer being shared or read by them.
This could have been a mutually beneficial and prosperous partnership with educational opportunities for our students and a way for Granby to add commercial enterprise to our tax base. Selling 50 of the 126 acres would have enabled us to cover the $170,000 annual cost of owning this land while supporting our vision to remain an agricultural community. Sound familiar? The organic dairy farm proposed on this property a couple of years ago is now up and running in New York state bringing in tax dollars for another community.
While there are some that would prefer to leave the land as is, it should have been a decision reached by the residents after a public hearing so we could all understand the full implications of the proposal. I am sure we would not have voted to purchase this land originally if the proposal was not bundled with essential repairs and a football field for the school. The purchase price of $2.4 million was unrealistic and based on a four-year-old appraisal. It was not worth the price tag then and is not expected to be so in the foreseeable future. Knowing this, I am disappointed that the three Selectman that were serving at this time, remain convinced that we must keep this parcel at all costs. Despite the 2015 land use study concluding that it should be used for agriculture, the majority of the BOS is totally against selling it for this or any other purpose, so we continue to lease it for a paltry amount. The land is currently leased to an out of town farmer for $13,000 per year.
It seems the favored use is to keep it as open space but for whom? Apparently, it is a remarkable piece of land; I hear glowing reports of its aesthetic appeal from a privileged few, but any view of it is obscured by the topography and it cannot be enjoyed by Granby residents. Keeping a property in our land bank for sentimental reasons is not a good use of our tax dollars.
Property is not for sale
I read the Selectmen report in the latest Granby Drummer this weekend and I was somewhat shocked to read about the town land on East Street potentially being developed/sold by/to Agbotic.
To my knowledge the town has not put this land up for bid. I think it is preposterous to consider any offer put forth under this inappropriate methodology. I am 100 percent against this motion and I do not believe any motion should be entertained until the townspeople request it via a vote.
Also, I think the sale of this land, a $2.5-plus million purchase should at least break even in the event of a sale.
This land was bought as an asset for future growth for the town, such as new schools, municipal buildings, recreational area or just open space, not to be sold to private enterprise at a loss. Maybe Mr. Ballard should suggest Holcomb Farm as a site to see how the town will react to that.
Why is Mr. Ballard so anxious to rob the people of Granby by selling this fabulous property? It makes one ponder.
Member of ZBA
Publicize the process
To the Board of Selectmen:
Re: 107 East St. (former Evonsion Farm) Agbotic and other proposals: 1) please make sure to provide as much information/data to the public as possible; and 2) make packet available online—if need be redacting dollar values of offer; 3) make the process entirely public as well. With COVID-19 constraints, it is hard to get public awareness. I for one am not racing to join meetings via Zoom—yet.
Please begin with the general precept that Town-owned land should be saved for future Town and community needs, be they 25, 50 or 100 years out. That might be Town functions, senior housing or even Town-protected ag for food to a climate-challenged region or food to those in need due to pandemics or economic dysfunction.
Avoid sales of this parcel—insist on long-term lease instead.
Don’t chop up this parcel, as I gathered Agbotic’s proposal would do. Why wreck it for projects, be they town or otherwise, that need a big property?
Any proposal to sell that is to be seriously considered by Town if you reject #2 and #3 above should be to a tried and true food producer. I’d be very disturbed if we sell outright to a startup whose track record as a food producer is not proven. That was a concern to me with respect to the last offer to buy this farmland—great visions don’t always pan out. All the more reason for long-term lease.
I learned in a recent news segment about the vast amount of agricultural land being bought up by investors, many from overseas who are not themselves interested in agriculture and food production. It’s all about money. I am not suggesting that Agbotic has any intent to use ag near term and then sell to investors, industry, or housing. But their success with what is now a Town resource is unpredictable. We need to protect this high-quality ag land.
Don’t forget the report and recommendations of the Town Owned Land Committee a few years ago—great surveys of public wishes, carefully thought out, good recommendations. Don’t waste all that effort.