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Vermont Land Trust to purchase Kingsbury Farm

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10/04/07

By Lisa Loomis

The Vermont Land Trust will step in and purchase the Kingsbury Farm, Warren, holding the property during the interim while local groups figure out a way to structure ownership and other issues. The sale will close on November 1.

The 22-acre farm went under contract in August when the local groups agreed to purchase the farm for $495,000. The property includes two barns, a farmhouse and 2,300 feet of riparian land on the Mad River. The logistics of creating an ownership entity as well as the legal structure for the parcel proved more time consuming than organizers originally anticipated, resulting in the contract being extended several times.

Liza Walker, local representative of the Vermont Land Trust, has been working with organizers of the purchase since the original purchase and sales contract was signed. She said it became apparent that the Vermont Land Trust was the best entity to make this project happen in time to meet the needs of the seller.

"We're going to step in to be the purchaser of the property using some of the funds that Warren has allocated and we're going to bridge some of the other funds. That will give the community time to explore the best use of the property," Walker said.

For the land trust to purchase property is not unheard of, although the Vermont Land Trust prefers not to own property and it strives to get ownership of conserved lands into the hands of towns or farmers.

Walker said that the land trust has recently been working more closely with communities and interested parties on these land conservation projects whether the land is being conserved for scenic, agricultural or recreational uses.

"There's an extra risk when we purchase property, but in this case, the Kingsbury property seemed like a place that was really important to The Valley. We don't know what might have happened to it if it had sold on the open market, but this way we can be sure it is protected. In addition to the land trust's goals of preserving farm land, we want to protect this parcel so that it can always be available for agriculture and give the community the chance to develop its own plans and priorities for the property," Walker said.

Walker said that the land trust would be working with the Mad River Valley community and the coalition of groups working to purchase the property to hold public hearings to talk about the best uses for the land.

The land trust will hold the property until next summer by which time the community is expected to have come up with a plan of goals and ownership structure for the property.

"We know that the land will be conserved with an easement on the farmland and that the only development might be within the existing buildings. What's up for debate might be the community uses in the barn and whether the owner will be a nonprofit, a new group or an existing group and the issue of whether it will be leased to one farmer or several who might use it incubator style," Walker said.
The town of Warren approved up to $125,000 towards the purchase of the property and organizers have been working on securing other public and private funding. The coalition working to purchase the group includes Yestermorrow, the Warren Conservation Commission, the Mad River Valley Housing Coalition, the Mad River Localvores, the Mad River Valley Planning District, representatives from the Intervale and the Vermont Land Trust.
"With VLT purchasing the property as the interim owner it gives us time we need to get the community involved in determining the best use for the property," said Robin McDermott, from the Mad River Localvore group.  
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"Liza Walker and the Land Trust did an amazing job. The process of acquiring land is usually a much longer process than this. They significantly compressed their schedule to facilitate the seller's need to sell the property before the winter. If it wasn't for Liza, this would not have happened," she added.

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