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Bluffside Farm – Newport City, Vermont
Background and Goals
The Vermont Land Trust (VLT) purchased the 129-acre Bluffside Farm in December 2015. Between January and June 2016, the community toured the land and attended public meetings to provide feedback on the future of the farm. Participants provided thoughtful direction on how the farm might best serve Newport. Based on this input, the goals for the land are to: 1) establish a working farm that is actively engaged with, and supportive of, community needs; 2) manage portions of the property for recreation on existing and future trails; and 3) protect important natural areas.
Priority will be given to concepts that would directly engage and benefit the Newport community (this could occur through partnerships with local entities). Some ideas provided by community participants include: partnering with the hospital and schools for both health and education benefits; direct marketing of local food; welcoming public use of the trails; and offering activities for the community. This list is not meant to limit proposals for community benefits, but rather to help explain this objective.
Because recreational access through existing and future trails is one of the goals for the property, VLT will also accept separate or combined concept proposals for the 37-acre portion of the property that is best suited to recreational uses and that includes natural features along Lake Memphremagog (see the property map in the right sidebar for details).
VLT is seeking an owner, or multiple owners, who can demonstrate the ability to fulfill these goals. (These goals may able be fulfilled by an owner partnering with community groups already engaged in some of these activities.)
Request for Concepts Submission Process
VLT is soliciting interest in the Bluffside Farm through a concept-style proposal. Applicants with concepts that best fit the resource and community goals stated above will be asked to submit a full proposal with greater detail, such as a farm business plan.
Interested parties are asked to submit a letter of interest of no more than five pages addressing the following questions:
- What is your concept for the Bluffside Farm property?
- How will your concept align with the criteria and overall objectives set forth by the Newport community and VLT?
- What will success look like at the Bluffside Farm under your stewardship and how long will it take to get there?
- What qualifies you or your organization to implement the vision you’ve described?
- What types of infrastructure investments will your operation require in order to get up and running at Bluffside Farm?
Concepts must be received no later than Monday, April 3, 2017.
The Bluffside Farm is located on Scott Farm Road in Newport, off of Bluff Road. It is near downtown Newport and within walking distance of North Country Hospital, North Country Union High School and Career Center, the Newport Bike Path, and the Prouty Beach Recreational Area.
The farmland has productive agricultural soils including 84 acres of soils rated as important in the state of Vermont. This land is gently rolling and well drained. There is managed forestland along the edges and in between the open fields. There are 49 tillable acres and an additional 15 acres of pasture.
Farm structures include:
- Farmhouse: 1,960 square feet, four bedrooms, 100+ years old, in fair condition
- Main barn: Former dairy barn, 6,592 square feet base area, has been used for horses
- Garage and two attached apartments: Total square footage is 1,966. The garage is insulated.
- Sugarhouse: 14’ x 14’
The farm was once a dairy. Most recently it was used for boarding horses and producing hay. Newport City water supplies the house, apartments, and barn. The farm is enrolled in the Vermont Current Use Program. The woodland is well stocked and has been managed with selective harvesting in accordance with a forest management plan. The previous owner tapped approximately 1,000 maples. There is almost a mile of frontage on Scott’s Cove and Lake Memphremagog. A natural sandy beach is considered to be a statewide significant natural feature by Vermont’s Nongame and Natural Heritage Program. Several footpath trails wind through the woodland portions of the farm.
The farm will be sold subject to a perpetual farmland conservation easement that will allow all types of agricultural uses and new agricultural structures. The easement will include an option to purchase at agricultural value. This option allows VLT to purchase the farm at its agricultural value should the buyer (or a future owner) attempt to sell the farm to a non-farmer. This provision is added to the easement to ensure the long-term affordability of the property to future farm owner-operators.
The easement will allow the existing house and farm structures to be repaired or enlarged and new farm structures to be constructed. If needed for the viability of the farm operation, additional farm-labor housing may be constructed. There will be a designated “farmstead complex” where farm and forestry structures may be built without prior approval of VLT. The final size and delineation of the complex will be configured to provide long-term utility to the farmer.
The easement will include requirements to maintain wooded buffers around several small areas of wetland and the frontage on Lake Memphremagog and Scott’s Cove.
In addition, the easement will include provisions ensuring public access to the property. This will include the development and use of a future bike path connector trail and walking paths along the bluff as well as access to the beach and a paddlers’ campsite from both the water and the walking trails (as shown on the maps of the property). Public access will be concentrated primarily in a 37-acre area. The easement may also include the ability to subdivide and separately convey this portion of the property (now or in the future) to a qualified recreational owner to better support these public access goals.
The farm could be offered for sale in several different configurations. Therefore, VLT would prefer to discuss details on pricing and configuration with the selected finalists. A preliminary appraisal information for a few possible scenarios showed a value between $325,000 and $420,000 (subject to a conservation easement as described above). The 37-acre public access parcel is valued at $75,000.
Open House to See Property & Buildings
An Open House will be held on March 18, 2017 from 10 am - 2 pm. If unable to attend the Open House, potential buyers are asked to schedule a time to enter the buildings by contacting Tracy Zschau at (802) 745-6301. Potential buyers are otherwise welcome to walk the property on their own in keeping with the public access guidelines (also posted in the parking area).
Selection Criteria and Process
VLT will select one or more concepts from potential buyers who best fit the project goals described above. Potential buyers whose concepts have been selected will then be asked to develop a full proposal for the property at a later date.
VLT is often presented with several good concepts, so this is a competitive process. Reaching a final decision on a buyer involves several steps. A decision-making team consisting of VLT staff members will reach a consensus on the top-tier concepts. Those selected will then be asked to develop a full proposal at a later date. At the full proposal stage we will provide additional criteria, proposal requirements and details about the selection process.
Please review the request for concepts submissions process and goals sections above for more details. The deadline for concept letters is Monday, April 3, 2017.
We look forward to hearing from you!