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 interstate — found just “sitting” there, “undeveloped” — barely even monetized! For Phil Scott, surely a heresy!