To the editor: I am writing in response to the article which appeared today (Oct. 5) in the Reformer regarding Peter Shumlin’s proposed development of the Ranney Farm in Westminster West ("Shumlin's neighbors turn out to oppose subdivision"). I am one of the "neighbors" who oppose the proposed development and would like to share my perspective and some information that was not included in the article.
WESTMINSTER — A town decision in 1893 to discontinue a narrow dirt road in Westminster West …
First the information:
1. Mr. Shumlin owns the Ranney Farm and currently has public access to his entire property from the frontage which exists along the Westminster Road.
2. Mr. Shumlin's proposed plan would divide two parcels off from the existing property in such a way as to create two land-locked parcels.
3. It is the potential creation of those two land-locked parcels that gives rise to the current issues and controversy regarding the status of Old Codding Road.
4. Old Codding Road is considered by the Town of Westminster and by the current residents on the road to be a private road. Residents pay privately to plow and maintain the road. To my knowledge, Mr. Shumlin has never payed anything toward the maintenance of Old Codding Road.
5. Mr. Shumlin has yet to produce a deeded right-of-way allowing him access via Old Codding Road.
6. Whether other residents of Old Codding Road have deeded rights-of-way to their properties is irrelevant as are observations regarding the number of lots already in existence on Old Codding. The only question before the Development Board is whether the to approve or reject Mr. Shumlin's permit based on the criteria laid out in their own by-laws.
Now my perspective:
The opposition to Mr. Shumlin's proposed development is not simply about a road. Neighbors and interested parties have repeatedly expressed concern over the loss of farm land in Vermont. They have expressed their concern that if Mr. Shumlin is allowed to break off these parcels from the Ranney Farm, it will set precedent for the further dismantlement of the agricultural land. When asked in the first hearing for his petition, if he could give assurances that he would not seek further development of the Ranney Farm, Mr. Shumlin would not answer the question directly or specifically.
The shortages brought about by the pandemic over the past two years have proven once again the importance of locally grown and accessible food. I am privileged to live in Westminster West where I can walk to High Meadow Farm or Linda's Farm for vegetables and to Live Water Farm for meat and dairy products. I know that there are young people in this state eager to farm who can't afford to buy their own land. I know there is a local business in need of more milk than can currently be supplied locally and thus could support a return of dairy farming to the Ranney property.
If Mr. Shumlin wants to sell off building lots to meet the demand for housing at this time, why not sell off some of his other real estate holdings? Lots that would not require the creation of land-locked parcels and would not require the division of a local farm. If Mr. Shumlin wants to rid himself of the Ranney property, why not approach the Vermont Land Trust as a possible way to support future young farmers or why not simply try to sell the farm?
The opposition to the Ranney Farm can be made to look like a local neighborhood issue but to do so obscures the larger concerns. I grew up in a town surrounded by farm land. I visited recently and where once there were farm stands and fertile fields, there are now McMansions and golf courses. These changes don't happen overnight. They happen one building lot at a time. Is this the future we want for Vermont?
Thanks for listening ...
Westminster West, Oct. 6