Tag Archives: I-89 exit4 private rest area

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!

Private Rest Area: A Good Opportunity for…?

Vermont has been saving pennies by closing Interstate highway rest areas, and for years the state has not provided sufficient funds to properly upgrade and maintain those that have remained. So pennywise and pounds foolish, it seems the state must be searching for schemes to keep rest areas available. One scheme apparently not under consideration is, you know actual proper funding of the facilities.

Now if you owned a large industrial park near an interstate and were offered a state backed monopoly business deal at the nearest highway exit, would you jump at the deal? How about if the state guaranteed no competition for many miles north and south?

From VPR News:  So the Shumlin Administration has backed a plan by developer Jesse “Sam” Sammis to build a rest area and visitors’ center off I-89 Exit 4 in Randolph. Said Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding […]”If it goes forward it seems like a good opportunity for the Vermont taxpayer, the traveling public and for Vermont producers to have a place to display their products,” he said.


“Sam” Sammis, Chairman of the New England Land Company of Greenwich CT and Randolph VT, owns projects in Vermont including The Green Mountain Stock Farm and Green Mountain Office and Industrial Park.

“I said it’s a good idea, but how am I going to make this thing work financially? I’ve got to pay to build the buildings, put the infrastructure in,” he said. Sammis said he plans to use a site next door to showcase Vermont products. He would charge companies rent to display their goods.

How well would this possibly work financially? How on earth could an exclusive State of Vermont deal at a heavily trafficked interstate highway interchange benefit financially someone that owns the surrounding 170-acre office/industrial park?

State studies from an earlier 2010 effort at this project by Sammis showed that by closing the existing rest areas combined with installing Vermont promtional signage on the Interstate, 500,000 travelers would “be put on the doorstep” of a commercialized area annually.

Getting the centers off the Interstates, [Department of Buildings and General Services Commissioner Gerald Myers] added, would make it possible to have retail sales on-site, something prohibited on federally-owned land.

No mention has been made of any remuneration to the state for its guarantee of non-competition or its promotional signs directing weary, rest-room-needy travelers to the privately owned commercial venture at Exit 4.

It’s beginning to sound like our Granite State neighbors to the East, where they sell liquor at the rest areas, just in case there aren’t enough drunk drivers on the road. But then again, selling liquor is exclusively a state prerogative over there.

So there you go, Sammis is the first to potentially have a state-blessed but otherwise unregulated monopoly with zero accountability. You want one? The key is on the hook. It’s around back. (Psst, don’t tell WalMart!)