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Town set to sell Fiddle Park to property developer

May 17, 2018   ·   0 Comments

Written By PETER RICHARDSON

Council met “in camera” Monday night to discuss a property matter and emerged to announce that Shelburne’s Fiddle Park had been declared as surplus land and as such would be sold to an unnamed developer.

Fiddle Park has a total land area of 114.5 acres, with only 31 of those comprising what the public generally recognizes as the park itself, the cleared and developed area, located at 105 Second Line, to the South of the No Frills store. The remaining 83.5 acres of wooded area, is designated as Natural Environment.

The developer plans to build on the 31 acre parcel, with residential housing housing earmarked for the area, while rededicating the 83.5 acres back to the Town. These naturally wooded areas, both north and South of the existing parkland, will be retained as natural woodlands, for the use of the residents of Shelburne.

The sale, will enhance the Town coffers by more than $7 million dollars, which will be ear marked for use in two primary areas.The first being community recreation, parks and trail services and related infrastructure and the second being infrastructure projects generally, including the water pollution control plant, sanitary and water servicing. The latter, is a source of increasing concerns, as the Town continues to grow and expand exponentially.

The Town will have until September 1, 2019, to use the park for events and community functions and during that time will consider other venues and options for these events. In addition, the Town will work with the original investors in Fiddle Park, those being the Rotary, Lions and Kinette clubs, in town plus the Legion and the Fair Board, who, all told, had invested $95,000 in Fiddle Park. Their contributions may either be rededicated to help support parks and recreation and community events, or refunded, in full to the organizations.

The Council also wanted to acknowledge the tremendous contribution of the organizers of “Pickin’ in the Park” and it’s significant fundraising effort towards the pole barn in Fiddle Park. To date, $106,250 of the total $125,000 raised, has been received. As the pole barn can be relocated, the Town will review in which park or facility this could be accomplished and will include consultation with the community in it’s deliberations.

The Town hopes to work with the organizers of “Pickin’ in the Park”, Gregg and Heather Holmes, to redirect their $106,250.00 donation to future costs of the Town’s parks and recreation community projects.

Although on the surface, this appears to be a profitable venture for the town, there may be a definite downside, which could definitely affect the viability of one of the towns largest employers. According to one source, KTH manufacturing, located just Southwest of the park, had decided to locate there on the understanding, that no housing would be built in the proximity of the plant. The reason for this, is that KTH is essentially a stamping plant and when their large presses are in operation, during the work week, they create noticeable vibrations in the land surrounding the plant. These vibrations can be felt in Fiddle Park. Whether or not this will present a potential problem for future homeowners, or not, will be a question that only the future can answer. However, if KTH were to encounter significant negative reaction to their operations, it would not be outside of the realm of possibility that they would consider relocation rather than protracted litigation or other counterproductive publicity. Were this to become a possibility, the impact on the economy of the town could be substantial.

Reaction from business leaders in town has been understandable, guarded. Chair person of the BIA , Linda -Amour Grant, who like everyone else, was caught off guard by the announcement Monday morning, stated that the BIA and likewise the EDC were completely unaware that this was planned. Based upon the fact that little will change before September of 2019, it was her position that it would have been more constructive had Council held a meeting with all the parties involved along with the business community to outline their plans prior to them being made public. Not that this would in any way challenge or change Council’s decision , but rather that it would have kept the business community and others involved, “ in the loop “ as opposed to “ in the dark “ concerning such an important issue. In response, Mayor Ken Bennington countered that Council was not trying to avoid the citizenry, but that due to the sensitivity of the issue, Council did not have the option of including other interested groups in their negotiations.

However, there will be an upcoming public meeting, later in the , which will be attended by all the local participants, including the various service clubs involved and at that time the public response will be heard.

When asked about the KTH situation and the June 4th confirmation meeting for the sale, Mayor Bennington stated that at this time, KTH had not been contacted, but that he did recall having seen some documentation regarding their decision to locate on 2nd line and nearby housing, however, he admitted that it was several years ago and he would need to look up that information. The mayor also stated that this could become a point of discussion with the developer. the Mayor also emphasized that no one on Council or at Town Hall, wanted to alienate KTH in this matter, as it would be very counter productive for Shelburne.Concerning the June 4th meeting, he stated that it was possible for Council to reverse it’s unanimous support for the sale, but that he believed that by doing so, the Town would become, potentially, liable for punitive damages from such an action.

As to the secrecy surrounding the identity of the developer and the planned development, the Mayor stated that this was at the insistence of the developer, but that all details would be made public at the June 4th meeting. The Mayor did say that the developer was a high profile company, considered to be one of the largest and best in their field. He went on to explain that before accepting the offer, the Town had acquired the services of a private assessment firm who determined a fair market value for the land and that Council had negotiated a deal considerably higher than that value.

At this time, the Fiddle Park is under used and could potentially provide much better value to the Town through it’s sale and use of the proceeds to enhance other recreational facilities in Shelburne. However, there are certain uses for which Shelburne has no other facility and the biggest of these is the trailer park camping that occurs during both The Heritage Music Festival and Pickin’ in the Park. For the Music Festival, in particular, the park is completely full of recreational vehicles and there is no other facility close by which might accommodate them. On the other hand, it was pointed out that this use is limited to the two events and at other times only a portion of the park is ever utilized. Beyond that, it is felt that the park is really too far out of town to be accessed on a general basis, like the Town’s other recreational facilities. Council feels that this is the best course of action and they expected emotions to run high over this issue but remain convinced of the value of the plan. Mayor Bennington urges residents that, if they have questions, to contact him directly and he would try his best to answer concerns and objections.

         

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