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Simsbury Officials Consider Sale of 40-acre Pharos Farm

The Simsbury Land Trust is requesting the sale of Pharos Farm to George Hall in effort to achieve a permanent easement on the land.

The town of Simsbury will hold a public hearing on December 10 to find out what residents think about the possible sale of Pharos Farm.

Pharos Farm is a 40-acre parcel of prime farmland between Terry's Plain Road and Quarry Road near the Farmington River. The land has been farmed by George Hall along with another 10.6 acre parcel located at 180 Old Farms Road in West Simsbury for nearly 40 years.

A proposal submitted by Charles Howard, president of the Simsbury Land Trust, to the Town of Simsbury requests consideration of the sale of Pharos Farm to George Hall for $480,000, the amount determined by a recent appraisal. Town officials approved the use of $3,000 to perform its own appraisal on the land.

Hall has farmed the land organically since the mid-1970's and has been certified organic for approximately 25 years, according to the proposal.

If the town agrees to sell the land, the trust plans to purchase a permanent agricultural easement encumbering both the George Hall Farm and Pharos Farm properties. In turn, the trust will pay Hall $550,000 for the two properties which will give him enough money to purchase Pharos Farm.

The trust plans to use grant funds to make the purchase.

"Both would be preserved for agricultural purposes," Howard told the Simsbury Board of Selectmen during a Nov. 26 meeting. View the full meeting on SCTV.

The board voted to approve the public hearing which will be held Monday December 10, 2012 at 7 p.m. in the main meeting room at town hall.

For more information or to view the Simsbury Land Trust proposal visit the town website.

David Moelling December 04, 2012 at 12:41 PM
I don't understand the logic in this. The town owns the property (and leases it to farmers now) and much of it is undevelopable due to being on the flood plain. The land trust will pay money to Mr. Hall to make it and his current property undevelopable. The town in theory would make money but would no longer control the property. The land trust gets some of the money back from the USDA in the form of federal tax money. (Our borrowed money but we can't talk about that). Question 1: Why can't the town get the USDA money directly? Question 2: Why shouldn't the town go to open bidding on the farm property if it is to be disposed of to ensure the best return. Question 3: How much does Mr. Hall pay to lease the farm per year now? My sneaking suspicion is that the Land trust is being used by adjacent landowners to increase the value of their properties in a tax deductible way. None of these properties are being used for parks or other places with public access, but only being made "non-developable". This eliminates public access as well as future tax revenue from any property being developed.
Happy Percy December 04, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Same thing happened in Granby. The town bought the evonsion farm for over market price and it is comtaminated with the normal Farm dumps, and also has a high water table so you probably can't build too much on it either. Amazing the Small Town Politics! Maybe they belong in a room next to Mayor Perez?
Robert Johnson December 04, 2012 at 03:12 PM
It seems about 1/3 of the 40 acre property is in the 100 year floodzone. If you look at the 500-year floodzone, it covers more of the property. However, as i understand it the Town's regulations only limit building in the 100-year floodzone. I may be wrong, but that's how I read the regulations. Regarding Q1 I would like to know if it is possible for the Town to get the USDA money. Perhaps the program just exists for organizations such as land trusts. If you've ever looked at federal programs, grants, etc. you will realize the limitations. You may look at a federal program that looks great and you read and read and it says something like "For cities, towns and municipalities with < 12,000 residents" that puts ones organization on the outside. Regarding Q3 Yes, when i was reading the article I thought it would be nice to know what the lease amount is now.
Yankeelover December 04, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Better get used to it. Q4 What control does Simsbury lose if they accept the USDA grant? This one belongs to the Chicago room. Big brother is here to help.
Robert Johnson December 04, 2012 at 04:58 PM
The "USDA grant" is a hypothetical grant or program. Mr Moelling was wondering in his Q1 if the town could get the money directly from the USDA.
David Moelling December 04, 2012 at 09:45 PM
So it looks like Mr. Hall's 11 acres under the NU power line are too small to get the USDA grant. The land trust is looking to broker a deal where the feds pay for an easement on the Pharos farm which will be sold to Mr. Hall. Where does it say that the people of Simsbury should sell town owned property to a single individual (even if he is an organic farmer) without entertaining other proposals. Why not simply keep the property in public hands if the objective is to maintain open space? The open space crowd ignores the concept of public access to land (that's why its called open space not Town Parks or Forests). Flood plain is a great place for playing fields, dog parks, or other recreation. Not allowing exclusive deals is a fundamental principal of good government. Open bidding helps keep out shady deals and the appearance of shady deals. The more complex the transaction the more likely it is not on the up and up.
David Moelling December 04, 2012 at 11:35 PM
I can't seem to understand how anyone in Town government could be serious about this. Maybe someone else can make this clear, but here's the way I see it. 1. The town, the land trust and George Hall set up a deal to get government money. 2. The town sells the land to George hall contingent on the rest of the deal being approved. 3. The USDA gives the Land Trust $270K to fund conservation of the formerly town owned property. 4. The Land trust gives George Hall $550K to fund the town land purchase and grant development restrictions to the Land trust 5. George Hall gets 40 acres of public land for nothing. Where do I sign up for this deal. It looks like property flipping with a straw buyer except the buyer is real but his money is someone else's. This seems to be scam to defraud the federal government and enrich a single individual (and the town). Pretty sleazy
Robert Johnson December 05, 2012 at 01:54 PM
I disagree that "the open space crowd ignores the concept of public access to land." The Simsbury Land Trust publishes a guide to their land and encourages recreational use: http://goo.gl/IRchR
David Moelling December 05, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Robert, The land trust does publish this guide, but in this case we are talking about conservation and development easements, not title transfer to the land trust. So the land owner is not obliged to allow public access. I've lived in town 30 years and with my dogs and family go about every day on state and town land. I am consistently amazed at how few people are out on the paths and trails compared to other parts of the country. This always makes me think the prime motivation for open space advocates is to preserve their view and restrict population growth in town.
Robert Johnson December 05, 2012 at 03:16 PM
You are right - I missed that point. Do you know what happens after George Hall is done with the land - does title go over to the SLT?

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