Settlement Reached in Dairy Farm Proposal

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(Host) The legal battle over a large dairy farm proposed for Charlotte is over for now. A citizens group and farmer, Clark Hinsdale, have reached a settlement that calls for Hinsdale to withdraw his application for a large farm permit. Hinsdale says he’ll pursue a mix of agriculture and residential development for the property.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) The conflict in Charlotte had raged for three years. Clark Hinsdale and his father wanted to build a large dairy barn and manure pit in the Bingham Brook Valley. Neighbors fought the plan. They worried that the manure pit would leach into the ground and contaminate their wells. About six months ago, both sides agreed to talk.

(Hinsdal)” The negotiations started off pretty tense and ended up pretty darn friendly.”

(Dillon) Hinsdale says he’s withdrawn his application for a large farm permit, and set a one-year moratorium on new manure storage or farm buildings in the valley.

The family’s farm plans have shifted to another operation on Route 7 called the Nordic Farm, where they’ve invested in a state-of-the-art robotic milking facility.

(Hinsdale)” The thing is, we’ve altered our direction somewhat and basically what we’re finding is that the community feels really positively about what we’re doing up at the Nordic Farm.”

(Dillon) In the Bingham Brook area of town, where he clashed with neighbors, Hinsdale plans a combination of agriculture and housing development. He says that plan also came through consultation with the neighborhood group.

(Hinsdale) “What we found is that the land we value the most, they value the most. And so conversely the land they value the least, we value the least. So some residential development, out away from the main stretches of prime farm land, basically, you know, they were in agreement with that as an alternate way to go.”

(Dillon) Peter Joslin is with the neighborhood group, called “Citizens for Safe Farming.” He says the settlement lays the groundwork for the neighbors and farmers to work together.

(Joslin) “I think what this agreement does is, it sets a very positive stage for if and when they get to the point where they’re looking to do something in the valley, whether that be farming, or additional farming and or some kind of development, it’s going to be – the way we set it, a group interaction in terms of what happens and how it happens.”

(Dillon) “Citizens for Safe Farming” has agreed to drop its legal challenge to Hinsdale’s project. Both sides plan to discuss extending the settlement agreement beyond its one-year time frame.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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