Expect to see a few more “for-sale” signs dotting North Kingstown’s roads starting this week. According to Richard “Rit” Schartner, he plans to put nearly two-thirds of his 400+ acres of farmland in South County, including his farm on Dry Bridge Road and a chunk of land at the intersection of South Country Trail and Ten Rod Road, up for sale.
Schartner said he hopes to keep the farm stand on South County Trail, but is looking to invest more time in his ventures in New Hampshire, where he has 205 acres of land in North Conway.
According to the longtime farmer, downsizing the farm (celebrating its 75th year) was the only avenue to cut losses after a development deal for a 140-acre lot off Ten Rod Road failed to come to fruition. Schartner says the $7.4 million he spent in 2005 to purchase the Bald Hill Nursery land has grown to a $10.5-million investment.
“The most valuable piece of property is the 20 acres on the corner. We don’t want to develop it but the transfer of development rights aren’t working,” said Schartner.
Schartner and town officials worked to create the town’s first transfer development rights program by which developers can buy rights from one property and transfer to an area where the town wants to see more development. The deal allows the developer to build more densely than otherwise permitted.
Though the idea was to send the development rights from Schartner’s land to areas in Post Road, where town planners looked to focus development, things didn’t go according to plan, said Schartner.
“We’ve had a hard time [selling the rights],” said Schartner. “There’s just no market for it.”
For Schartner, it has nothing to do with the recent economic downturn that began just as the plans for the TDR program began in 2008. Schartner asserts the actions town officials and members of state agencies are forcing him to sell part of his lands to stay financially afloat, citing issues with access to the corner lot and the adjacent picnic grove.
“We’re in the worst economy since the Great Depression,” said North Kingstown Planning Director Jon Reiner. “What is marketable right now?”
Reiner also said there is opportunity for the TDRs to be purchased, as several proposed developers who are eyeing Post Road would need them to bring their developments to fruition. The proposed enhancement of Heritage Apartments would need TDRs to be built as densely as developers hope whle the Reynolds Farm development (which calls for more than 500 residential units and assorted commercial spaces) would also need them if it is built any denser.
Initially, Schartner’s exit strategy was to sell off the 20 acres on the corner of his Bald Hill Nursey lot. Now, that land is held up in a lawsuit with the town of Exeter.
Unable to sell the land and with no takers to buy the TDR rights for it, Schartner said he may have to build on the corner.
“[The town] doesn’t want the corner to be developed and neither do we,” said Schartner. “But I don’t want to go broke.”
Schartner has four development projects in the pipes at the North Kingstown Planning Department, including one for the corner area of South County Trail and Ten Rod Road. According to the master plan for the site (submitted to the planning department), Schartner plans to put 240,000 square feet of office buildings on the corner.
Two other proposals that are pending include a four-house lot next to the farm stand and seven houses, a light industrial facility and other additions to the land on Dry Bridge Road. A fourth proposal, which is already approved, would put 20 condominiums and four single-family homes behind the blueberry fields across from the farm stand.