Strong Advocacy Leads to Conservation
Stopping sprawl in its tracks and keeping valuable farmland available for farmers to use has taken a huge leap forward. In 2016, following a year-long legal case led by CLF, a developer withdrew plans to build a massive, sprawling complex, including shopping, a hotel, a conference center, offices, and housing in Randolph, Vermont. Although that project ended, the site remained at risk for inappropriate development.
Now, two agreements reached with the complex’s developer will permanently protect a large swath of the farm fields — forever. And the community will now have the opportunity to permanently protect the remaining lands at this scenic gateway to Randolph.
Permanent Protection for 149 Acres and an Option for More
These agreements came about after 18 months of CLF working closely with the developer, conservation partners, farm interests, and local citizens. As a result of the first agreement, 149 acres — a full 87 percent — of the land that was under threat at Exit 4 off of I-89 in Randolph will be protected. The Castanea Foundation will purchase the farmland and put it in the hands of farmers. A conservation easement on the land will ensure the land stays in farming forever.
An option to purchase the remaining 22 acres, including farmland and a spectacular scenic overlook, will allow the entire area to be protected.
This marks a significant step forward for supporting local farming and combatting sprawl. The sprawling blight at Tafts Corners outside Burlington, and along many other highways throughout New England, will not happen in Randolph.
The second agreement provides for an option to purchase the remaining 22 acres of the site, which includes additional farmland and a spectacular scenic overlook, for $1 million. This agreement with Preservation Trust of Vermont will allow the community – and not developers’ profits – to decide the future of this iconic landscape. Even 22 acres of sprawl is too much, especially at the gateway to Randolph, one of the most scenic overlooks in the state, and purchasing these remaining acres would protect the entire area from development.
Act 250 in Action
The fight to save this prime farmland began in 2015, when CLF and our partners at Vermont Natural Resources Council learned of the proposal for this sprawling development and intervened in the state land use permit case for it. We showed that the proposal ran afoul of farmland protections laid out in Act 250, a Vermont state land use law, and, after five days of hearings, the developer withdrew his application. However, that still left the door open for the developer to propose a smaller project on the land, but even that would do irreparable harm to the farmland and the rural features of the area.
For the past 18 months, CLF and our partners have been working to find a solution that would prevent sprawl on this land and protect all of it for farming. These agreements to purchase the land have shown the value of Act 250 protections by demonstrating how significant this land is for farmers, and how they would have been hurt by a development that spread across the landscape and infringed on its agricultural use.