NEWFANE — During a special town meeting on Tuesday night, about 65 residents in attendance voted unanimously to spend $450,000 on the purchase of 22 acres on Radway Hill Road and River Road for a town gravel pit.
Voters also unanimously voted to authorize the Select Board to borrow up to $600,000 to cover the purchase, the Act 250 application process and other start-up costs
The property is owned by Guilford businessman Paul Belogour, who owns the Reformer’s parent company Vermont News & Media. In February, Belogour bought the property for $100,000 with the intention of subdividing it into 22 lots for new homes. The property is currently assessed at $148,000.
Ann Golob, the vice chairwoman of the Select Board, acknowledged Belogour’s asking price “hurts” and leaves many people questioning why the town didn’t buy the property a year ago.
“They want to recoup their effort and what they perceive to be their potential profit,” she said.
Select Board member Shelly Huber told those in attendance the seller wasn’t interested in negotiating the purchase price.
“The price was the price,” she said.
Golob also noted that sand and gravel are scarce, and other towns, such as Dover, are looking for their own options.
“It is my personal assumption that if we do not purchase this,” she said, “they or any other town nearby will do so.”
“Based on a report by Savoy Engineering that analyzed the composition of the gravel and sand on two-thirds of the site, there is sufficient material to meet the town’s gravel needs for at least 30 years,” stated a news release from the town. “The available sand at the site would last even longer. The analysis was done on only 13 of the 21 acres and based on visual examination, the additional 8 acres have a similar composition. Therefore, the town can anticipate using the pit for several decades.”
In 2019, the town had an opportunity to purchase the parcel from the previous owner, Frank Mercede and Sons, for $195,000, said Huber.
When asked why the town didn’t purchase the property before Belogour, Huber said the need for sand and gravel wasn’t as acute as it is now and the Select Board at the time did not feel the need to own its own gravel pit.
But since then, said Golob, the cost of sand and gravel has increased by 54 percent.
She noted that Putney and Dummerston recently purchased their own gravel pit and with all expenses will be paying $2 million for 750,000 cubic yards of material over 10 years. Newfane will get 823,000 cubic yards, she said, for a little more than $1.4 million, which includes the purchase price, permitting and the costs of operating the gravel pit.
Golob also noted that if the town has to go on the open market for its sand and gravel, taxpayers could be on the hook for more than $3.5 million over 10 years.
Golob said the purchase will cost $60 per $200,000 of home value, but only for the first year. Following the first year’s expenses, the cost will drop to $20 a year.
Once the purchase is complete, the town will need to apply for an Act 250 permit to operate a gravel pit. For the foreseeable future, all materials from the pit will be for the sole use of Newfane, though the town could return to the Act 250 Regional Commission to apply for an amended permit to sell materials to neighboring towns.
Neighbors were assured that a noise assessment would be conducted during the Act 250 process and that crushing will probably only occur one week out of the year.
To view BCTV’s recording of the special meeting, visit https://youtu.be/i2FI6JtEGg4.