Residents meet to discuss farm plans

Kate Barcellos / Staff Photo

By Kate Barcellos
Staff Writer

PITTSFORD — Since mid-winter, the community has discussed potential site development plans for the Pittsford Village Farm, purchased and donated last year by Betsy and Baird Morgan.

Last week’s meeting at the Furnace Brook Wesleyan Church attracted 23 residents partially because of their guest speaker, host and project organizer Ed Bove, executive director of the Rutland Regional Planning Commission.

Bove presented three soil projections designed by the state Agency of Agriculture to demonstrate what soils on the farm are considered “prime ag” soils that must be protected.

“I wanted to outline what was on the site in terms of natural resources,” Bove said. “Another level down is statewide soils, which aren’t as high yielding or important. It matters when you’re trying to site plan and for Act 250 permitting — the agency charges a mitigation fee if you’re disturbing or destroying ag soils.”

Residents met with the Vermont Council on Rural Development twice prior to nailing down what they’d like to see done on the farm, and organized their hopes and visions into three main categories. They wanted a new community center, an agricultural hub, and retail opportunities that would attract outsiders to Pittsford.

At the meeting, residents suggested the farm cultivate high-value crops such as blueberries or orchards on the western section of the farm, nuts, and possibly a hop farm on the more than 20-acres of land available.

“I would hope that we can preserve the natural beauty of the farm,” said Bruce Pyle, chairman of the PVF board of directors. “We have a beautiful vista to the west. The farm is part of the heritage of Pittsford, because there are very few village farms left.”

For the community center portion of the PVF, residents said they wanted to see a new structure built that might include a full, industrial kitchen so the center could be rented out for private and public events such as weddings, concerts and catered events.

“There’s no place to meet in Pittsford,” one resident said. “We’re here out of the goodness of the church.”

One resident suggested bringing the matter to the Select Board to see if the town would agree to maintain the new community center, and even suggested putting the matter on the ballot for next year’s town meeting.

Bove suggested installing a solar array, which garnered general agreement.

Residents also suggested building a new gazebo and a natural amphitheater to host outdoor concerts and theater events that would make Pittsford more of a destination for tourists passing through.

Retail businesses have to have a home there, too, though, and residents focused on the need to bring more money into the town with additional commercial space.

But attracting more business means more cars and more traffic, and residents said they wanted to avoid creating a bottleneck in town.

“I think that needs to be studied,” Pyle said. “We do have some options. Our biggest concern is, we are close to the intersection near Kamuda’s store. We can potentially move that down and add more access points.”

In addition to building new structures, residents said they liked the idea of an ice-skating rink, a track for running and possibly a basketball court, but didn’t want to detract attention from Pittsford’s recreational center and programs.

At the end of the meeting, Bove took the lists of ideas and wishes back to the RRPC to regroup and research for the next meeting, at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 25 at the Furnace Brook Wesleyan Church.

“I thought the meeting was a really good meeting,” Pyle said. ”The Rutland Regional Planning Commission is a valuable resource, and he’s very supportive of what we’re doing. We have the planning commission under contract for a master site plan, and this is a very helpful tool to guide us through the project. This is kind of a first step, to develop a plan.”