On Friday, November 3, Waitsfield received the deed to a 110-acre property known as the Old Fairgrounds parcel from Fair Grounds LLC, an anonymous group of investors.
Late last year, this group of investors purchased the 110-acre property from the Lee family, with an interest in conserving 100 acres of forest land that abuts the Wu Ledges Town Forest and the Mad River and exploring possible housing development on open land used as the Mad River Valley’s fairgrounds in the late 1880s. The approximate value of the investors’ purchase is $900-$950,000.
Over the last 11 months, the Waitsfield Select Board has been meeting with representatives of Fair Grounds LLC, working on terms of how the land was to be conveyed and intended uses.
“The Fair Grounds LLC donation of this land to the town of Waitsfield is an amazing gift and greatly appreciated,” said Brian Shupe, select board member and board liaison for this project. “The town first expressed an interest in acquiring this parcel over 40 years ago. It opens up opportunities for housing, critical infrastructure, river corridor protection and forest conservation,” he added.
The land is located on the east side of the Mad River near the southern end of Irasville. It adjoins a string of other town-owned properties along the Route 100 and Mad River corridor, including the Austin Parcel, the Tardy Parcel, and the Lareau Swim Hole.
In addition to the former fairgrounds area, which is situated on a large, flat plateau located behind Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church, the parcel includes a floodplain field presently used for agriculture, 100 acres of mature forest, wetlands and wildlife habitat, high ledges providing views of The Valley, and a stream that flows into the Mad River near a large rock outcrop at Lareau Swim Hole.
In the deed, which was recorded last week, the LLC included a non-binding statement of intent which spells out how the investors hope the land will be used.
HOUSING AND WASTEWATER DISPOSAL
The investors noted that they hoped the old fairgrounds portion, which is a 15-acre flat open field behind Our Lady of the Snows church, will be used to help meet pressing community needs, “either carefully-sited housing or, preferably, municipal wastewater disposal to support housing development within the town’s designated growth centers.”
In terms of the land outside of the old fairgrounds portion, the investors wrote that they hope the town conservation commission will prepare and implement a management plan that promotes old growth characteristics and climate resilient forestry, offers permanent protection of the Mad River corridor, restores wetlands and riparian area, manages non-native species, and maintains recreation trails to access Wu Ledge, among other things.
In the late 1980s the property’s owner, Johnson Lee, proposed a large development that included over 200 condominiums and a nine-hole golf course. Lee died in 2005. Nearly 17 years later, Lee’s children sold it to Fair Grounds LLC.