Newport – October 21, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Newport’s Bluffside Farm will be the focus of a new farmland conservation and public access project, the Vermont Land Trust (VLT) announced today.
Based on a show of interest and support from the residents of the City of Newport at a public meeting on September 14, 2015, VLT has negotiated a Purchase and Sales contract for the 129-acre property ahead of the scheduled October 23 foreclosure auction.
In partnership with community members, the Land Trust looks forward to considering the highest and best uses of this property that are aligned with community needs.
Following the purchase, VLT will launch a community outreach effort to gather input on public values associated with the property and begin fundraising to permanently protect the land. Eventually, VLT plans to seek an experienced farmer to purchase the farm and contribute to local agriculture in the region.
A former dairy farm, the Scott farm includes over 60 acres of tillable and pasture land, all of which is statewide-important agricultural soils. The farm is a productive and scenic resource on Memphremagog’s Indian Point and forms a major portion of the viewshed across Lake Memphremagog from downtown Newport.
The entire property is enrolled in Vermont’s Current Use program and the woodland is subject to a forest management plan. The farm has been in the Scott family for five generations (with no public access permitted) and is the largest remaining agricultural property in Newport City.
“I see this as an incredible opportunity for Newport – to increase recreational and educational opportunities for all our citizens while ensuring that there is a source for local food so close to downtown,” said Katharine Sims, Executive Director of Newport-based Green Mountain Farm-to-School.
The farm includes over 5,000 feet of undeveloped frontage on Lake Memphremagog, including a natural sand beach area that is considered a Vermont Nongame and Natural Heritage site. More than half of the frontage is on Scott’s Cove, directly across from Newport’s Prouty Beach recreation area and campground. Pilings are still present from a pedestrian bridge that formerly connected the properties.
“This property has contributed a rural structure to our small City for decades. Newport has grown unevenly from its early years and this growth has created challenges both physically and financially,” said resident Mary Pat Goulding. “Disorganized development of this property could have detrimental and unintended consequences to City residents, property owners and the character of the City. Newport has shown that it wants to embrace the best of its natural features and do the utmost for the quality of life for its citizens.”
VLT is acquiring the farm as a part of its Farmland Access Program, which provides farmers with affordable access to farms for commercial operations.
“This program has helped a lot of farmers to buy their first farm, or to expand their operation,” said Jon Ramsay, Director of VLT’s Farmland Access Program. “When we see an opportunity, we step up to buy a farm that would not otherwise be affordable to a farmer. These farms are often at risk of development, which would be a real loss to communities that value their farms and local food.”
“In the case of Bluffside Farm,” said Tracy Zschau, VLT’s Conservation Director, “in addition to being a treasured agricultural resource, VLT also heard from local residents about other public values associated with this property, such as water quality protection and recreational access. VLT is interested in working with the community to develop public access opportunities and strengthen water quality protection as part of the conservation of the farm.”
The purchase price is $1 million and the closing on the purchase is scheduled to occur towards the end of November. VLT will use bridge financing from The Conservation Fund to complete the purchase.
VLT will eventually resell the farm to a qualified farmer for the appraised agricultural value of the land, barn and residence. The sale of the farm to the selected buyer will take place once VLT has completed a conservation plan for the land and raised the charitable donations and grant funds necessary to ensure the permanent protection of the property. The farm will be sold subject to a conservation easement which will ensure its long- term affordability to farmers.