The purchase of the lots would cost Hermitage an estimated $325,000 and allow for an eventual expansion of the airport runway to 5,000 feet, as well as reconfiguration of the tax lots into larger lots to reduce their density. The Hermitage would also like the town to agree to a tax stabilization program for the acquired land, with the town assessing the properties’ percentage of fair market value for taxation at an increase of 10% over the course of 10 years.
Town Manager Scott Murphy said the proposal has been sent to an attorney representing the town on the matter, and the selectboard will be going through each of the proposal provisions before making a decision. Chris Cady will represent the town, as the town’s usual attorney, Bob Fisher, is representing the Hermitage.
Purchase of the tax lots would be contingent upon approvals by Act 250 and the Development Review Board, as well as approval for use of a roadway leading into the east tract of lots. The east tract road goes from the Haystack ski area to the Mount Snow Airport, and the Hermitage plans on using the road for construction vehicles to bring fill to the airport’s construction site.
The east tract roadway is a gravel road built in the 1970s, and is currently in rough shape, having been overgrown and its culverts damaged by Tropical Storm Irene. The Hermitage would like to make improvements to the road, and in return, if the town would like to establish the east tract road as a town road, the Hermitage would convey the road to the town at no cost.
In the agreement, Hermitage also would grant permission to the town for use of any Hermitage land that would accommodate the town’s trail systems through mutually agreed upon land. The town will also act as the owner and applicant for any permit applications, Act 250, or town DRB applications pertaining to the airport or the lands acquired.
The proposal also honors obligations requiring the last ownership group of Haystack to contribute to the purchase of a new fire truck for the town. According to Bob Rubin of the Hermitage, the Hermitage is tied to that obligation and will include it as a condition of a new Act 250 permit. In the proposal, the Hermitage would also agree to provide land for an auxiliary firehouse either at the airport or at High Peaks. The Hermitage and fire chief Ken March are currently in discussions about the specifics of this part of the agreement. The contribution for a new fire truck is estimated at $278,000.
According to Alice Herrick, Wilmington Zoning Administrator, the DRB has approved modifications to Hermitage’s development plan that include a hotel, which is much taller than any other structure in Wilmington. “As part of that approval process, the DRB included a requirement for a contribution for fire apparatus. The expansion of the airport runway in Wilmington has not yet been reviewed by the DRB, so the fire truck requirement is not associated with that project,” said Herrick.
Rubin said the proposal is a win-win for both sides, as well as the entire community. “When you look at our area, we’ve all done a nice job of protecting town assets, except the airport,” said Rubin. “It’s been let go and run down and that’s not good. We want to bring it back to a safe working condition.”
Rubin also said the potential the airport brings for commerce should be utilized. Visitors would be able to take day trips to the area for a day of skiing, golf or hiking, and supply local restaurants and shops with more customers. “It’s a benefit for everyone to have this airport,” said Rubin.