A Practical Guide
To buying and Owning Property at the Commons.
The Purpose of this Guide is to help you evaluate your options at the Commons, we use a question and answer format that because these are questions that we get asked frequently. Because out best responses come in careful conversations, we would love to discuss, in more detail, all the questions below and others that may be on your mind.
- What is the price for the individual lots and what is included?
The overall cost of owning a parcel and the 1/8th share of 131 acres of Commons land range from $110,000 to $170,000 including all development costs like: driveways, septic, and water, phone and electric buried lines done in accordance to our engineering plans that have been permitted by local and state review boards. We also pay for general lot clearing and cleanup of forest debris, but not the landscaping and garden development around your house. You will be responsible for the usual legal and, in some cases tax fees, associated with purchasing real estate.
There are two parts that comprise the sale price, the first is a $40,000 cost for purchasing 1/8th of 131 acres of Common Land or the equivalent of 16.3 acres per family.
The second part that determines the sale price is various features of each lot, its location, size, amount of existing development on it and other more intangible factors like the view.
|Name||Common cost||Parcel cost||Building value||Total|
We believe, and research supports our claim, that the value of Common Land is far greater because of all the resources it avails to the Community when owned by the entire Community versus sub dividing this land into 16 acre private parcels. Our narrative on Building Value may help you get a better perspective on future equity development.
The costs of Breidablick and Campanula cottages are $280,000 and $380,000 respectively.
- How were prices determined and by whom?
The prices were determined by ourselves in consultation with local realtors, banks, attorneys and considerable review of land sales in the area.
- What will be the estimated tax cost and other fees that members will encounter?
Huntington’s current tax rate for both the School and the Town is 2.178 per $100.00 or $21.78 per $1,000, of appraised value. This rate is set by the Town’s Selectboard and School Board and approved by the voters at Town Meeting in March. For that past 20 years the Town's tax rate has been stable, we don’t expect any major changes up or down.
Using State guidelines, the Town’s Listers develop a value for land and buildings. Buildings are appraised for the building and then there is a separate appraisal for the land that it sits on, this is called the “Homestead Tax. The State of Vermont defines a homestead “as the principal dwelling and parcel of land surrounding the dwelling, owned and occupied by the resident as the person’s domicile.” This tax is income sensitive; it increases if your income is in excess of $95,000/year. So far, that has not been much of an issue around here.
The other important fact to keep in mind is that town appraisals are far below those done by independent bank and real-estate appraisals. For example, the town appraisal for the Farm House, a ten room 2,400 square farm house with two bathrooms and four bedrooms, is $277,724 before depreciation and $208,300 after. We calculate that Town appraisals are almost half of bank appraisals would put the House’s value at about $400,000 and replacement costs would be in excess of $500,000. For us the building is priceless, but fortunately, the Listers do not factor that in.
The rest of the Farm, about 131 acres, is under Vermont's “current use” jurisdiction which means it’s tax value is according to its use, in our case, forestry, recreation and meadow use, means a much lower taxable value then development use. The state puts a current use value on the 131 acres that will comprise Common Land of $20,800, a very low value.
In attempting to give you a better idea of what you may pay in local property taxes we have developed a couple of scenarios. Please keep in mind that these scenarios were developed by conversations with the Town’s helpful Listers and a close study of current taxes on our property and other cases in town where we could create meaningful comparisons.
- Breidablick: The appraised value on Breidablick is $118,800, so the tax on the building is $2,587.46. After conferring with the Town lister we can infer that the value on Breidablick’s parcel would be between $70,000 and $80,000, which means our estimated combined appraised value for the building and the parcel is $198,800 that mean a total property tax of about $4,330/year or $360/month.
- Hypothetical new building at Windekind: If a building were in about the 2,000 square foot range, with three bedrooms, two baths, quality building built in the $375,000 price range we would estimate a town appraisal of about $200,000 with the lot at $80,000 for a total $280,000 appraisal meaning a tax of about $6,098/year or $508/month.
Please consider that there are many variables in this equation, if we had more details on your actual construction plans we could help you get a more finished and final number. You can also work with the Town Listers or consult a tax attorney for a more complete estimate.
The town tax on the 131 acres in the Common is $453.02 based on a current use appraisal of $20,800. Since this tax would be shared by the entire community each family would pay $50.33 for their share of taxes on Common Land. Please know note that we would pay our full proportional share of taxes on Common land until all the parcels are sold.
We have also taken a stab at developing a budget for the Commons itself and what each family would contribute each year. At this point we come up with a working figure of about $950 per year that would include items like snow plowing, mowing and other upkeep items along with supporting a fund for long term community projects like building a storage building and a Common building.
This budget is offset by various ways that the community can make money such as leasing land to community members who want to use it for production purposes and selling timber products and putting the proceeds toward a general fund.
- If we purchase a parcel, how does the process for building a home work?
Construction of a home is complex, there are so many variables involved, like finding a builder, finalizing location, energy and other standards, landscaping and architecture.
Given this complexity, we want to provide as much support to the process as possible but not at the expense of restricting owner creativity and freedom of choice. This is a balancing act that on the one hand presents some of our design ideas, makes recommendations about vendors and material while on the other hand encouraging the new owner to explore ideas and options and do their own research. developing their own ideas.
You, have a broad range of choice here --on the one hand we can come up with a finished or near finished design that you can plug in and go to work, on the other hand you can delve deeply into the creative process considering every aspect of what you want to do.
I have considerable construction and design experience and our son Nils is very experienced given his career as a custom home builder, designer and landscaper, he now runs an excavating business.
Our design standards are also important and helpful guidelines, looking at construction in light of the standards fosters some great dialogue that improves outcomes. A great home is the result of a careful, informed and committed individuals sitting down and make good plans happen.
- Can you summarize how the Homeowner’s Association is set up and how members participate?
The structure for the Association and its workings are established in our By Laws that strike a fair balance between the rights and privileges of the individual and the interest of the Community as a whole.
The By-Laws offer the community fair guide lines and parameters, within which to operate, while meeting town and state legal requirement. They are designed to be a useful tool that will be amended from time to time, for our decision making process.
This will insure better management of our resources and provide the foundation for a democratic decision making process for the Community. We take our By-Laws and Mission very seriously, they establish firm ground that we can stand on to make decisions, but they will be amended to fit the changing needs of the community.
- Tell us more about how the ski center works and how you see the relationship with the Commons?
The mission of the Camel’s Hump Nordic Ski Area ( CHNSA) is as follows:
Camel’s Hump Nordic Ski Area, Inc. is organized and operates, exclusively for charitable and educational purposes, as a tax exempt, 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, with the following mission:
To preserve, maintain and foster a community network of Nordic ski and snowshoe trails on public and private land;
¥ To facilitate a deeper understanding and appreciation of the winter environment and the mental and physical benefits of Nordic skiing and snowshoeing;
¥ To use this neighborhood trail network to develop a strong sense of community;
¥ To build an active and involved membership led by a dedicated board of directors;
¥ To provide a unique ski experience for all skiers on a mixture of terrain in ways that foster an appreciation for community, nature, and responsible environmental stewardship.
Overall the CHNSA develops and maintains about 30 miles of hiking and Nordic trails in the vicinity of the Commons with about 2.5 miles on Common Land including trails that abut our neighborhood areas for easy access.
Marijke and I have always been very close to the CHNSA, our children tested their first skies here as tiny tots and at one time I served as its president and retired from the Board, now we are very active land owner helping with maintenance and giving our input on many trail related topics.
Because of the enormous value that we put on the trails and recreation as a resource for the Commons, we envision a future with the CHNSA with ongoing direct involvement and perhaps participation at the board level. On several occasions the ski center has invested capital and volunteer help heavily in trail and bridge development on Common Land.
- What happens, since you are older, when you retire from an active role in the common, where are you and Marijke heading? What happens to your share in the commons when you die?
A first goal for Marijke and I is to insure the Farm’s economic sustainability, preservation and conservation past our life time as part of a meaningful community. As the community takes hold and matures an important goal will be to transition leadership from us to the Community as a whole, this is critical for the community’s sustainability.
My job is to encourage, foster and empower new and fresh leadership and talent that can manage and develop the Community in my absence. In the meantime, I look forward to an active shared leadership role with others and our emerging Board.
There are provisions in our By -Laws that stipulate, in order to maintain consistency in the community, in the event of a member family who wants to sell their property, that the Community or an individual family has the right of first refusal at fair market value. The intent is to give the Community the opportunity to find a new buyer who is in harmony with our Mission and By-Laws avoiding a scenario in which land is sold in a haphazard manner to buyers who have little interest and stake in the Commons.
This means, at our death, that this provision will exercised by our family in an estate with a designated spokesperson. One member of our sibling family could opt to buy out the other two siblings and decide to join and live at the Common in the Farm house with consensus from Common members, but this scenario is highly unlikely since none of the sibling families have the capital nor the desire to buy in.
Then the community would get busy at finding a new buyer or perhaps take ownership itself and use the farm house as a Common house and a guest building. A challenging provision but one brimming with opportunity for the community in the interest of sustaining continuity and protecting these resources.
- How can we be insured that the Commons and our investment in it will be sustained and not just a temporary idea that will dilute over time?
An important part of our Mission is to initiate a realistic and affordable development process that improves common land and private parcels at a pace that the community can afford and support with labor. Because we want to make this process fun and enjoyable, we want to be careful with too many expectations but enough to insure that we can develop our community and have fun doing so.
The community has plenty of opportunity to improve our real estate holding in the interest of individual families and the community as a whole. The outcome that we seek is to create a landscape that we are more enriched by and happy with in the manner that love for a place grows as people participate with it. At the same time, because of participation the equity or dollar value for all families grows providing the confidence that comes with a good investment.
For example, a community owned neighborhood zone winds its way through the private parcels. Landscaping and developing community resources in these areas will enhance property values and improve quality of life for all while developing an infrastructure that can be sustained. This is a model that we and many friends have invested money and sweat equity in for years that makes the farm so valuable today.
- How do new members come in, is there a vetting process? How will the Community insure and sustained commitment to its core values and commitment?
We have developed a comprehensive, yet very informal vetting process that is consensus based.
When potential members express an interest in the Commons an extended conversation ensues in which we explore the needs, goals, aspirations, financial capacities and values of the interested family. Then we both determine what the Commons has to offer in response, the idea is to see if there is a realistic and practical fit from a buyers and seller’s perspective. If needed we bring other people into the process, for example, your extended family and helpful professionals. and advisors.
I find this process very helpful, simultaneously, I learn more about the project, myself and you-- always interesting with the confidence that comes with a good decision.
If you are interested in initiating this process give us a call or E mail us and we will get going. A lot of information can be shared on the phone and by E mail but a visit is best. Come see us, you will be welcomed.
- If we are interested in a commercial operation at the commons how would that work and what provisions are in place to support that?
Because we believe that a vibrant community needs a vibrant economy, we are strongly committed to creating a strong and well integrated local economy that blends with the regional economy. We want to avoid a project that just depends on its own economy because that could be too fragile, likewise one that depends solely on incomes generated elsewhere because that economy fails to use local resources and talent.
A good economic foundation always seeks diversity that utilizes a broad range of talent and resources that also provides many positive outcomes that the community benefits from. For example, persons who work away from the farm bring an element of predictability and stability to the community while persons working here can provide important goods and services to the community and involve others in their work.
There are many provisions in our Design Standards and Mission that encourage small business in the form of shops, home offices, studios, market gardening and farming. We are strongly committed philosophically to entrepreneurial activity across the community, supporting others in their goal to earn a meaningful living, including elsewhere. This is an empowering model that creates environments that people can accomplish their best in and share that with interested others.
We also have expertise in these areas that we enjoy sharing and helping others to put important goals into practice. exercising, creating an example of a community in which there is a lot of mutual support.
- What is the relationship between the Commons and the Railroad and its shop?
The railroad and the shop is the product of my lifelong interest in the craft of building large train models and steam engines that operate the same as their full size brethren. It also reflects a desire to enhance our landscape and make it beautiful, l in the same manner that a trail system does. In addition, I love the social experience around the Railroad, it is a wonderful mechanism to engage people- young and old and have fun and teach something about trains and how to operate them.
My first goal is to create a project that has a social value for our Community in the same manner that an extended garden walk way would. People find it interesting, educational and lots of fun to operate at social events like picnics. Perhaps a few new members will take a deeper interest in the Railroad, that would be wonderful but never a requirement. We do try to recruit families that have this interest.
Finally, the shop has become a working museum where people can have hands on experience and learn about railroad technology and model building. We have worked hard to make the Railroad intrinsically valuable as a community resource and so far, feedback and enthusiasm, tells us that we are succeeding.
Almost the entire railroad is on Common land where it enjoys a right of way. A small, but critical portion, is on the parcel that Breidablick sits on that Liz Bicknell now owns.
We are in the process of setting up the Railroad as a 501c3 with its own governing board that will include at least one Common member.
The mission of Board will be to support, maintain and develop the railroad’s infrastructure, raise capital and develop community and educational based projects. The By-Laws of the railroad will be subordinate to the Communities’ By-Laws.
- How does the Common work with neighbors and the surrounding community and family members?
We are by nature people who believe in the strength of strong neighborhoods, we believe that people seek to belong, be part of something and create common cause and enjoy each other’s friendships. For example, our local elementary school provided outstanding educational opportunity for our children and grandchildren. In return Marijke was the school counselor, I served on the School Board and we have hosted about 15 school “hike days” at the farm in which for one day the whole school is here including the cook.
Our neighbors, Dori Barton and Aaron Worthy are professional environmentalist and land use planners who have made major professional contributions to the project while we have, in return supported their business and watched it grow and succeed. A strong local community like the Commons flourishes when the surrounding community is engaged and strong. We are not- God forbid, a gated community.
- If we want to sell our property and move on, how does that work?
There are provisions in our By-Laws that stipulate, in order to maintain continuity in the community, that in the event of a member who desires to sell their property, the Community or an individual family has the right of first refusal at fair market value. The intent of this provision is to help the seller find a qualified buyer and help the Community to find a qualified new member and insuring continuity. It is very important that communities grow and change, yet reasonable continuity and predictability insures all members control over unwanted and unsolicited change instilling a sense of permanence and enduring value across generations.
- What are the provisions made for children and young adults?
We are happy with our overall commitment to diversity especially the diversity becoming an intergenerational community, with plenty of children of all ages including some adults like me who like to be childlike. An important way that we can attract families with children is to create an environment that is children friendly, but also children and adult stimulating from a learning perspective. Over the years at Windekind Marijke and I have repeated learned what a stimulation environment the farm can be for all people.
The farm has abundant natural resources and four season recreational opportunity. We have a long artisan history of people making, inventing and creating things that run the gamut from advanced computer programing, to creating gardens and bridges and stone walls to fine models. At Windekind we know how to cook a meal, sharpen a chain saw, drive a tractor, build consensus, host an event or weigh in on world affairs and social change.
Always, always children, in their own way and at their own speed and pace are involved in these things. younger members can be involved with and learn from.
This works in reverse, younger people doing things that we can learn from. Creating an environment where people of all ages learn by doing and educating is cherished, easily done in this diverse and rich and skill based landscape.