WILMINGTON- The Hermitage’s plan to expand the Mount Snow Airport cleared another hurdle this week, as the town of Wilmington approved their proposal to purchase 55 tax lots in the East Tract and High Peaks areas.
The purchase of the lots will cost Hermitage Inn Real Estate Holding Company LLC an estimated $325,000 and allow for an expansion of the airport’s runway to 5,000 feet to make it safer. The Hermitage also plans to reconfigure the land into larger lots to reduce their density and build single family homes.
Wilmington town manager Scott Murphy says that the town is excited to put the land back on the tax roll. “It’s important to have as much land out of our hands and in taxpayers’ hands as possible in order to reduce taxes,” said Murphy. “This is really a plus-plus for all of us.”
The town acquired the tax lots in 2006, but has been unsuccessful in finding a buyer with the capacity to develop them, as many of the lots were too small to build on. According to Murphy, town policy states the town is not in the land development business and it’s their duty to return the land to the tax roll as soon as reasonably possible. “This is beyond ‘reasonably possible,’” said Murphy.
The town will sell the properties to the Hermitage through a quitclaim deed, which terminates the grantor’s claim to the property, allowing for a quick transfer of land. Hermitage will still have to go through the necessary Act 250 and development review board processes to make changes to or perform construction on the properties. Stipulations that the Hermitage had asked for in the original proposal such as a tax stabilization plan will not be included in the purchase and sale agreement. The Hermitage may still have to come to agreement with the Coldbrook Fire District over any outstanding fire district liens.
By purchasing the lots, the Hermitage will also obtain the east tract roadway that connects Haystack ski area to the airport. The Hermitage plans to repair the gravel road damaged by Tropical Storm Irene, and use it for construction vehicles to bring fill to the construction site.
Hermitage developer Jim Barnes says that the purchase of the tax lots is a win-win for the town and the Hermitage. “Our goal is several-fold,” said Barnes. “It allows for a critical connection for the Valley Trail to connect to downtown Wilmington; it allows an alternative route across town for fire, safety, and rescue; and it provides additional land to add to a safety net to the flight path to the airport.
“We are working with all of the various groups that use or plan to use the area and will create land permission agreements with all.”
Barnes also said that reducing lot density will help to incorporate more preservation space as well as the possibility for horse riding, stables, and pastures.
Construction has already begun on the airport as the terminal has undergone renovations and the runway has been repaved. The Hermitage group also plans to eventually rename the airport the Deerfield Valley Airport, but the name has not yet been made official.
Barnes will be hosting a grand opening on Saturday at 3:30 pm to showcase the renovations.
Barnes will also be hosting an informational session on July 22, at 7 pm, at the Hermitage Club to provide the public with knowledge of his plans for Mount Snow Airport: What it is, what it can be, and what it won’t be.
According to Murphy, the town has posted two legal notices, and beginning Friday, voters will have 30 days to bring the sale to a special meeting. This will require 5% of the town’s voters’ signatures.