COVENTRY – Pete’s Greens of Craftsbury has plans to expand its operations to a field across the road from the New England Waste Services (NEWS, also known as Casella) landfill site. Pete’s Greens wants to use 10-15 acres of the 100-acre property for green houses and is attempting to broker a deal with New England Waste Services to use the site.
Monday, Amy Skelton of Pete's Greens and Alison Low of the Northeastern Vermont Development Association met with the Coventry Select Board in hopes of applying for a state grant to study the feasibility of building green houses on the property.
There is one hitch: George and Sherry St. Onge, not NEWS, Washington Electric Cooperative (WEC) or Pete’s Greens, own the land.
“Nothing has been spoken to me about this yet,” said George St. Onge, who attended the public hearing. “There is a purchase agreement with Casella (NEWS) on this parcel and, as far as I know, no land records have changed in Coventry yet.”
Even after NEWS purchases the land, St. Onge has a right to lease the property back at five-year increments.
Skelton said she didn’t see that as an issue, but St. Onge said otherwise. “It’s an issue for me because nobody has spoken to me about this yet.” St. Onge added that it sounded like a good project. “I need it to be clarified before it goes through.”
Skelton said she understood that NEWS would complete the purchase from St. Onge so the project can continue to move forward. Discussions would then turn to if Pete’s Greens would lease or buy the property from NEWS. “I think they would prefer to own it,” Skelton said of NEWS. “Once it goes to legal review, both of our lawyers are going to have to look at all the risks involved. We would of course prefer to buy it, if the price was right, because it’s hard to consider building that much infrastructure on rented land. They are amenable to a lease or a purchase, but they would prefer to lease if we can come to terms on it.”
St. Onge said someone needs to talk to the property owners, because it’s them not Casella who owns the land and will own it at the time Pete’s Greens wants to break ground.
Select board member Michael Marcotte said the grant is for a feasibility study only. However, select board member Richard Lussier said, as it is now, the feasibility sounds questionable.
“I want to know where people are at,” said St. Onge. “I signed something years ago and I went to see a lawyer this week and I have all the reason in the world to be here. We’re not quite sure that you have any reason to be here. It needs to be clarified with myself and the other owner of the property.”
Marcotte, who agreed with Lussier, said $30,000 of taxpayer money would be thrown away if something happens and Pete’s Greens can’t lease or purchase the land.
Then NEWS representatives should be on the forefront of doing the right things, said St. Onge, who added that he didn’t think anybody was doing anything underhanded.
The project, when and ever it goes through, will create a variety of jobs that include farm work, administration, sales and transportation. There is also a possibility of having a farm stand.
“I am not sure it makes sense, but we’d like it to make sense,” Skelton said of the farm stand.
Hot water produced at the nearby WEC power plant at the NEWS landfill will heat the greenhouses. The water is used to keep the equipment cool at the WEC site. As it is now, the water is repeatedly used at the plant. However, Skelton say it could be used for something else.