Letter: Facts relating to Newport City Annual Meeting Warning Article 7 by Tracy Zschau

in Letter to the Editor/Newport

The Vermont Land Trust (VLT) would like voters to have the facts about property taxes on the former Scott Farm, which it purchased in 2015, before voting on Article 7 at the Annual Town Meeting on March 5, 2018.

Article 7 reads: “Shall the City ask the City Assessor to reassess the property owned by Vermont Land Trust, parcel #107016, located at 171 Scott Farm Road?”

Vermont Land Trust did not petition to have this article added, nor were we consulted about it by the petitioner. Therefore, we cannot speak to the motivation behind the article. We do think it is important, however, to clarify the property tax situation as it stands right now in case there is confusion.

This article pertains to the former Scott Farm purchased by VLT in December 2015. There has been no reduction in municipal tax revenue due to VLT’s ownership of the farm. VLT paid the back taxes owed on the property when it was purchased and has paid the tax bills in full for each of the last two years. The property was reassessed in 2017 and the assessment increased, as did many others in the City. VLT did not contest the assessment, nor do we plan to. VLT will continue to pay the property taxes, as assessed, while we own the property.

During VLT’s ownership we have engaged the public in discussions on how the property can benefit Newport and have partnered with many local organizations and the City to increase public access, including hunting. We have also expanded agricultural use by collaborating with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps and North Country Hospital to grow vegetables. And we have partnered with North Country High School and Career Center to make the property available to students and teachers to expand educational opportunities. Currently we are developing a $1 million infrastructure project, at no cost to Newport taxpayers, that will result in a 7-mile waterfront recreation trail connecting downtown Newport to the Canadian bike trail system.

We look forward to expanding and adding to these collaborations and are always interested in hearing from residents about their ideas and concerns. We invite residents of Newport to contact us directly. Please feel free to reach me at tracy@vlt.org or find more information online about the Vermont Land Trust, Bluffside Farm, and the public process to “re-imagine” the farm and its contributions to Newport at www.vlt.org/bluffside

Sincerely, Tracy Zschau
Conservation Director, Vermont Land Trust

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