Randolph Exit 4 I-89 development land conserved

Sometimes with the right combination of co-operation, money, power, and influence things can be made to “click” to preserve open land here in Vermont.vermontlandsave1

An agreement has been made involving developer Mr. Jesse “Sam” Sammis and his wife Jean “Jinny” Sammis, the Castanea Foundation, and a Vermont goat farm that will result in the conservation of hundreds of acres almost two hundred acres of land which will remain open and farmed. Sammis’s now-abandoned  development proposal  along Exit 4 from I-89 in Randolph as planned would have included 274 residential units, 280,000 square feet of office space, 236,000 square feet of light manufacturing space, and a 180-bed hotel and conference center.

As reported in a press release last week from the Preservation Trust of Vermont:

The Montpelier-based [Castanea] foundation is acting as an intermediary to hold the land to allow time for the sale of a conservation easement with public funding, private fundraising, and the eventual sale of the conserved land to Ayers Brook Goat Dairy for agricultural purposes.

In addition, Sam and Jinny Sammis have agreed to sell the remaining 22 acres that they own at Exit 4 to the Preservation Trust of Vermont. Working in conjunction with Conservation Law Foundation, the Vermont Natural Resources Council and the citizen group Exit 4 Open Space, the Preservation Trust of Vermont will have the opportunity to purchase the remaining 22 acres. The groups will need to raise $1 million dollars – substantially below the assessed value for the property – over the next 60 days to complete the deal.

The original sprawling undertaking had the backing of the Shumlin administration. Part of the proposed project was an agreement with the state for developer  Sammis to build and run an officially sanctioned state welcome center. The center and a 30-year lease on state-owned land would have provided  exceptionally convenient access with the Interstate exit funneling traffic to the Sammis-owned industrial park, office space, conference center and hundreds of residential units. Former Governor Shumlin’s former Secretary of Administration, Jeb Spaulding, was particularly enthusiastic “When I first heard about this proposal I thought it sounded too good to be true.

The recent agreement to save hundreds of acres of land took an impressive alignment of active local opposition to the development, several heavy-hitting conservation groups, and of course lots and lots of money.

But despite all the smiles and good feeling now, developer Sammis’ said: “I’m happy about it from a conservation standpoint. As a developer and somebody who’s lived in Randolph for over 40 years and knows that there’s a tremendous demand for good jobs, I’m disappointed.”  Sammis’ remark (nudging pretty close to right up against some sour grapes) anticipates future development battles.

And those battles will involve Act 250 Vermont’s statewide development review process. Governor Phil Scott has pledged to “reform” Act 250. His  encounter with Act 250 as young businessman is part of his well-worn origin story. The review process is bound to be factor as that thousand-acre utopian city-state planned for nearby Upper Valley towns of Royalton, Sharon, Strafford and Tunbridge moves forward.

So there’s more to come. Think of all the open land through no fault of its own located near the interstatefound just “sitting” there, “undeveloped”barely even monetized! For Phil Scott, surely a heresy!

5 thoughts on “Randolph Exit 4 I-89 development land conserved

  1. You have a couple of facts wrong here… Shumlin approved the so-called “Rest Area and Product Showcase” but not the sprawling development. And it wouldn’t be state-owned land. Also, it’s not “hundreds” of acres; it’s 149 acres with 22 still remaining to be secured.

    Sammis never had any actual plans to build anything other than the ‘Product Showcase,’ which was a sneaky ruse he came up with to subvert the zoning that prohibited retail there. He wanted to secure the permits for the other uses which he hoped to then sell to other developers. Big problem: He never produced a shred of evidence that there was any market for the housing, office or light industrial space, let alone a 180-bed hotel. (That’s over twice as big as the Berlin Comfort Inn, which is located in a busy area). Sammis has a lot of commercial property sitting empty in Randolph still, sitting vacant. No interest in developing them, either, it seems.

    The most focal spot – that clearing atop the hill closest to the interstate – is still up for development if $1 million is not raised by June 1st…I’m digging deep to help with that and I’d hope others who enjoy that view and value prime ag soils will pitch in to assure that at least one Vermont interchange will not look like everywhere else, USA.

    You can do so through this link:
    http://blog.ptvermont.org/2017/exit-4-farmland-and-open-space-randolph/

    1. Re: Shumlin’s support for the entire Sammis project

      In response to requests for Shumlin to support efforts to block the development Vtdigger.com reported in 2015: “Shumlin’s spokesman Scott Coriell did not respond to requests for comment, but the governor has supported the project in the past.”

    2. And this earlier bit from The Herald: “Sammis and Shumlin both described the project[state sanction welcome center] as a key part of a larger Sammis development on his substantial acreage around Exit 4. That development, which has been conceptually approved by the town, might include a hotel, office buildings, light manufacturing and as many as 274 residential units.”

      1. Sorry, but after reading the above twice, I see no statement from Shumlin indicating that he supported the larger project. He like the project inasmuch as he’d get a free rest area in the deal…in any case…
        ___

        So is this rare untrammelled interchange with gorgeous view worth opening your wallet for, BP?

        1. Shumlin and Spaulding’s enthusiastic support for part of a project that is key to success of the whole – I’d see that as support for the entire endeavor.
          It wasn’t an a la carte menu.

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