Four months after a plan for a major development at the I-89 exit in Randolph was withdrawn, the future of the property remains up in the air.
Developer Jesse Sammis owns a lot of property in Randolph, and he’s put most of it on the market, including several commercial buildings in the village and the Three Stallion Inn, Stock Farm and Montague Golf Club just outside of town.
But Sammis says the 172 acres he owns south of Exit 4 isn’t actively for sale because he’s still intent on putting a development there.
“It’s a project I’ve worked on for 40 years, one that I think is going to be a great project for Randolph and the surrounding communities. I’m committed to seeing it completed,” he says.
Earlier this year Sammis held confidential talks with statewide environmental groups that led to the withdrawal of his most recent plan, which had envisioned a mixed use development of more than 1 million square feet.
Sammis says he expects there will be further discussions with the Conservation Law Foundation, the Vermont Natural Resources Council and the Preservation Trust of Vermont to reach a compromise that will allow him to submit a new plan.
“Before we start spending money with a new master plan, I want to know where we could place buildings and where the open space and the prime ag land could be,” he says.
A compromise might mean the land – or some of it – could be purchased or otherwise preserved. Sammis hopes an agreement can be reached in the next couple of months.
In an email, Sandra Levine, an attorney with CLF said, "going forward, CLF and our allies will continue to seek opportunities to provide for more permanent protection of these valuable farmland resources."
A local group, Exit 4 Open Space, has not been part of the confidential talks.
David Hurwitz of Exit 4 Open Space says Sammis’ plans have been ill-conceived, out-of-scale and a threat to local businesses.
Hurwitz says his group will continue to fight the development of Exit 4.
“We’re fully prepared to pick up where we left off," he says. "We have not gone away. We’re citizens who live here. Whatever happens to that land affects us."
Hurwitz says any new development plan will need to show clearly that it would benefit Randolph.
“And that’s not just saying, ‘We’re going to create jobs,’ or these kinds of vague things that developers say, which is oftentimes just a lot of hype. It has to meet the town plan and it has to be backed up by studies,” he says.
For the moment, the land at Exit 4 is being farmed and Hurwitz says ideally, that’s the way it will stay.