Two historic agreements will allow the protection of valuable farmland and the scenic gateway to Randolph. Mr. Jesse “Sam” Sammis and his wife Jean “Jinny” Sammis have agreed to sell 149 acres of land off Exit 4 in Randolph to the Castanea Foundation for $1.2 million dollars for conservation purposes. The Montpelier based 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. Donations may be made at www.ptvermont.org.
“What a remarkable turnaround, and what an amazing opportunity we have. We were faced with a proposal that included more than a million square feet of development. Now we are on the cusp of protecting 150 acres of farmland, saving some of the most important scenic views from Interstate 89, and taking a key step to help build a stronger downtown Randolph,” said Paul Bruhn Executive Director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont.
Sam and Jinny Sammis, who own the Three Stallion Inn and 1,300-acre Green Mountain Stock Farm in Randolph, have had land conservation interests in Vermont for over 45 years. In 1970, Mr. Sammis worked with The Nature Conservancy and was responsible for consummating the sale of 6,500 acres that were added to Vermont State Parks on Camel’s Hump and Mount Mansfield.
“While Jinny and I were very excited about our proposed development of the Exit 4 project which would have been great for the Randolph community and much more profitable for our family, we have decided to work with our friends at The Preservation Trust of Vermont, Conservation Law Foundation, and Vermont Natural Resources Council to conserve these valuable lands for agricultural use by local farmers,” said Sam Sammis.
“The valuable farmland and exceptional view make this property a unique asset for Vermont,” said Sandra Levine of the Conservation Law Foundation. “The location of the property near the Interstate places it at risk for future development.”
“The property is predominately prime agricultural soils, a resource that is irreplaceable and of significant economic value to local farms,” said Tim Storrow, Executive Director of Castanea Foundation. “Our plan is to work with Vermont Land Trust and local partners to sell a conservation easement on the property, and eventually sell the conserved land to Ayers Brook Goat Dairy to help support their mission towards advancing a goat dairy industry in Vermont.”
The Castanea Foundation is a private operating foundation that works with private landowners, businesses and public agencies to conserve Vermont’s working landscape. The foundation has a particular interest in fostering the growth of the goat dairy industry in Vermont as part of a larger strategy to create rural economic development opportunities and conserve Vermont’s working land.
“The protection of this property is critical to the future of the goat dairy,” said Miles Hooper, Farm Manger for Ayers Brook. “Like many farms we rely on rented land to grow a lot of our feed, and permanently securing this land for feed production is very important for the long term viability of the farm and our ability to supply feed to other aspiring goat dairies.”
“Exit 4 Open Space applauds the Castanea Foundation’s purchase of 149 acres of farmland at Exit 4, to be sold to area farmers and preserved into the future. By keeping prime farmland in farming, it reinforces not only the importance of Randolph’s history as an agricultural community, but also the role farming plays in Randolph’s economy, and the vital importance it will have as future generations face the impacts and stresses of climate change and the need for quality farmland,” said David Hurwitz, of the citizen group Exit 4 Open Space.
In 2015, Mr. Sammis, Chairman of the New England Land Company, requested preliminary findings from the Act 250 District Environmental Commission for a 1.1 million square foot, mixed-use development for the Exit 4 property. The proposal faced considerable opposition over its impacts to prime agricultural soils, consistency with local and regional plans, and the aesthetic resources of the area.
After four hearings before the Commission, Mr. Sammis withdrew his proposal and started discussion with conservation organizations with the Conservation Law Foundation, Vermont Natural Resources Council and Preservation Trust of Vermont. These discussions lead to the Castanea Foundation stepping in to buy the farmland to allow time for the property to be conserved, and an agreement to allow conservation interests the opportunity to purchase the remaining lands.
“These agreements provide a great opportunity to fully protect the productive farmland and iconic views that will leave a legacy for Vermont and Randolph,” said Brian Shupe of Vermont Natural Resources Council.