Londonderry land purchase shot down at town meeting

By Christopher Biddle
©2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Londonderry residents listen to the discussion on the proposed property purchase. Photos by Christopher Biddle. Click a photo to enlarge.

Londonderry residents listen to the discussion on the proposed property purchase. Photos by Christopher Biddle. Click a photo to enlarge.

Per the wishes of its citizens and despite the full support of the Select Board, the Town of Londonderry will not be purchasing a parcel of land adjacent to the town Transfer Station, as a clear majority of a crowd of 91 residents voted down the purchase by voice vote. The vote followed a presentation by Select Board member Paul Gordon and a round of skeptical questioning by those in attendance, who, for the most part, believed the purchase to be unnecessary to the well-being of the town.

The special meeting presented three articles to Londonderry voters. The first of was to elect a new moderator for the meeting. Once the meeting elected state Rep. Oliver Olson, who lives in Londonderry, and after he established the rules of the meeting, he turned the discussion over to Gordon, who began by presenting arguments for Article Two, which would have allotted no more than $10,000 for “engineering and any other such study that will be required to assess the feasibility of the purchase of land…”

According to Gordon, the $10,000 would go toward approval for sand and gravel extraction. “At one point, we had hoped that we could eliminate the article altogether, but we are going to need engineering to acquire an Act 250 permit,” said Gordon, the board was not sure how much such permits would cost, but that the allotted amount would be more than enough.

Article Three asked voters for approval of the actual purchase, which would cost $150,000. The land had been assessed at $90,000, which Gordon explained did not include any resources that could be extracted from the property, and which he estimated would save the town nearly $53,000 a year. “The bottom line is the cost of the land could be realized by using the sand and gravel deposits on the property,” said Gordon.

Select Board members, from left

Select Board members, from left, Wayne Blanchard, Paul Gordon, Will Reed, Steve Prouty and Jim Ameden, who is leaving the board.

“Long-term environmental concerns develop from the closed town landfill. We believe the cost of the land is an inexpensive insurance policy,” he said.

Once Gordon was finished with his presentation, the residents of Londonderry almost lost their opportunity to ask further questions when town resident Tom Cavanaugh, who was responsible for the petition that called for the special meeting, moved to have discussion ended and called for a vote. While many in the audience had decided how to vote, they could not reach the required two-thirds majority to do so.

Many in the audience inquired as to the reasoning for the purchase, seeming to focus on the idea of using the land as a possible site for future salt and sand sheds, while neglecting to realize the board’s desire to insure the town against future liability resulting from landfill contamination. Many suggested other possible sites for the sand and salt storage.

Jim Ameden, who resigned his position on the board as of Tuesday, told The Chester Telegraph, “I think the town’s losing out on a big opportunity here. … probably being the most conservative person on the board, I really had a lot of reservations about spending the money, but as the facts came in, it just seemed like it was a really good deal. . . I think we’re losing a big opportunity here.”

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Filed Under: FeaturedLatest NewsLondonderry

About the Author: Christopher Biddle is a journalist, radio DJ and lifelong Vermonter. He hosts the 9 to 11 a.m. Sunday Rewind show on 102.7 WEQX. In addition to The Chester Telegraph and The Mountain Times he has written for other local publications. His audio work includes stories for VPR and Slate Magazine's podcast network. He collects VHS tapes and knows how to use a chainsaw.

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  1. Rachel Febbie says:

    Mmmmm….I would not say “we neglected to realize the board’s desire to insure the town against future liability resulting from landfill contamination”… More so, we do not feel this “insurance policy” is necessary at this time. And sand, gravel and solar panels just don’t make the land purchase sound anymore appealing. Perhaps there should have been more information focused on the possibility of landfill contamination (and its effects) rather than how to offset the cost of an overpriced piece of land. Just my personal opinion and I respect that everyone has his own.

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