Open Hearth Community Center is among the community groups interested in seeing the town of Waitsfield purchase the Flemer barns at the north end of the village.
Waitsfield has an option to purchase two parcels of land from the Flemer family. One parcel is called the farmstand parcel and it fronts onto Route 100 and adjoins the Flemer field which was donated to the town several years ago. The town is looking at that parcel to build a new town office and the option is to purchase it for $100,000.
The second parcel, known as the barn parcel, abuts the Flemer field at the south end and includes two barns. The town has an option to purchase that parcel for $250,000. The town’s Town Office Task Force recommended to the select board that the town purchase the options. The task force and select board hosted a meeting last month to discuss the potential purchase and to take public feedback on possible uses for the barn parcel. The small barn is about 4,000 square feet and the larger barn is about 9,000 square feet.
Open Hearth Community Center’s chair Brian Degen was among those at the meeting and his organization would like to see Valley residents work to develop the smaller barn as a youth and community center.
Open Hearth will be surveying Harwood Union students on the matter and will also be surveying adults in The Valley about interest in such a project. Degen said that his organization is hopeful that when the select board creates a new committee to consider whether the Flemer barn parcel should be purchased and how the barns should be developed, that the youth/community center idea is further developed.
Open Hearth has some development funds, he said, and would have a capital campaign to raise funds to convert the barn to a youth center. The smaller barn is about 4,000 square feet, he said.
“I think we should have a design charette and I think we should write grants for development assistance that could be matched by Open Hearth, Waitsfield and the other Valley towns,” he said.
In addition to Degen, other groups are interested in seeing the town purchase the Flemer barn parcel. Karen Nevin, director of the Valley Arts Foundation, also expressed an interest in seeing a cultural center developed on the Flemer barn parcel. At the September meeting, she said the Valley Arts Foundation is very interested in being partners in the endeavor and could envision the spaces including a gallery and childcare space. Nevin also noted that there were grants available to facilitate the conversion.
At that same meeting,Kaiya Korb, principal of Waitsfield Elementary School, said that she can envision the barn parcel becoming a gathering space for elementary school children as well as Harwood students. Korb said that she has to turn away events at the school due to lack of space and said there is a need for additional community space.
Kirstin Siebert, a landscape architect who lives in Waitsfield Village, told those present at the meeting that she could envision something more agricultural for the barn parcel, including a 4-H space for the location, a location for learning trades, shop space and/or a community garden.
She noted that the land is prime agricultural land and should be used as such.
The Waitsfield Select Board will appoint members of a new Flemer barn parcel committee at its next meeting on October 22.