Saxon Hill Proposal: Essex, VT Voters Decide on Town Meeting Day

By Kristen Tripodi

Published 02/20 2014 06:30PM

Updated 02/21 2014 07:08AM

ESSEX, Vt. - More than 800 acres of land on the outskirts of Essex, Vermont is at the center of an amendment to the town plan. It’s the area known as Saxon Hill; adjacent to Sand Hill Road.

Roughly 60% of the land is allotted for preservation and recreation.
The other 40% is for industrial use. Those regulations are part of a decades-old agreement between the town and the landowner - Hector LeClair.

“We're at a point of disagreement with the regulations that were not necessarily crystal clear,” said Dustin Bruso, the Chair of the Essex Planning Commission.

Let’s rewind two years ago. LeClair wanted to remove sand from a portion of the protected land - the town said no.
LeClair took them to court. A judge ordered both parties to figure it out on their own.

So fast forward to today- the proposed amendment to the town plan is a compromise between the town and LeClair. That includes LeClair gifting the town nearly 300 acres of preserved land. He keeps the rest. Approximately 60 acres of LeClair's remaining land would be redistricted for residential use.

"Really the town plan changes that we are proposing, enables us to look at this. enables us to take that next step which is to define the zoning and develop the zoning that's appropriate for the area and the community,” said Bruso.

But not everyone in town believes the proposal is a good idea. Select board member Irene Wrenner says she was the only member to vote against it.

“Right now the safest thing for us, for the wildlife the future of the land use in Essex would be to vote this down and send it back to the judge and let the judge decide and we'll go forward from there,” said Wrenner.

David Burke represents the landowner and he says when the time came to make a deal he was surprised LeClair offered up the land for free.
Burke says redistricting some of the land as residential would allow LeClair to quickly sell the land to developers.

But ultimately the life of the proposal is up to the voters.

For more information click here for a link to the town’s website.

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