What does “fully improved lot” mean?

“Fully improved” means the roads are in, the driveways stubbed, all utilities (power, telephone, septic) are underground with connections at the driveway stub…  unlike “raw” lots where utilities may have to be brought in some distance (and often at considerable expense) from the nearest major road.

How does the community septic system work?

Foote Farm has a state-of-the-art community septic system that eliminates the need for leach fields (otherwise ~$20,000) on each lot.  Each home installs an Orenco Advantex water treatment system that in itself reduces TTS (total suspended solids) and BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) in the effluent by up to 98%.  The output from this system (which has no smell and would be suitable for ground discharge in virtually every state other than Vermont) is pumped from each system to the nearest of two collection/transfer stations (at the circle by Lot #1 and on Lot 17). From there, the collected effluent is pumped across the property to the small pump house (east of lots 14 and 15, and from there to four raised bed leach fields at the very eastern end of the property).

The Advantex system at each home includes a VeriComm Monitoring System that is monitored remotely 24/7 by Advanced Onsite Services of Colchester, VT.  The VeriComm Monitoring System detects high/low liquid levels, stuck float switches, pump failures, excessive cycles/run times, clogs and other conditions and then alerts AOS via modem.  AOS can often remedy situations remotely; if not, they make a service call.

Each homeowner executes a Residential Preventative Maintenance Agreement with AOS at a three-year fixed rate (currently $275/year).  The service agreement includes an annual onsite inspection and all routine cleaning and adjustment procedures as recommended by the manufacturer, with a report issued to the homeowner.  Unscheduled or emergency service calls and repair parts are at added cost.

The cost of the Orenco Advantex system is approximately $12,000, compared with $30-$35,000 for a traditional septic system.  The tank should be pumped every five years or so, depending on load. There is no smell anywhere.

What other “site improvement costs” can I expect as part of the building process?

The only other costs are drilling a well ($5,000 to $10,000 depending upon depth, typically 125-300 ft.), installing a driveway from the stub to the garage, and landscaping as per the approved landscape plan for each lot.  The water in this area is fairly hard and does contain varying amounts of iron, so a water softener and filter are usually desired.

Is cable TV available?

Not at this time.  The local phone company has 100 mbps fiber-optic available; DishNetwork or DirectTV is available for satellite television.

Why are lots at Foote Farm priced equivalently to larger lots elsewhere?

In addition to being “fully improved”, the homesites at Foote Farm are clustered in and among 48 acres of woodlands on the 160-acre property. While each lot by itself may measure from 1.5 to slightly over three acres, most are adjacent to or overlook portions of the 112 acres of common land that will never be developed.  Lot #1, for instance, is only 1.25 acres but has a 25-acre hayed meadow for a ‘back yard’. Lots 9, 10, 11, 15 and 16 overlook literally miles of preserved farmland to the north and abut woodlands to the south, thus greatly “expanding the elbow room” for each lot.  Lots #3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 abut hayed meadow to the west. Lots 14, 16, 20, 21 and 22 are adjacent to the rare and irreplaceable clayplain forest natural community at Foote Farm.  So, in effect, each lot here has a much larger feel than the actual dimensions of the lot.

The common areas at Foote Farm are all preserved as natural, open and/or working landscape under the auspices of the Middlebury Area Land Trust.

What are the Covenants and Restrictions all about?

The Foote Farm Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions sets out the guidelines under which the Foote Farm community operates.  In addition to setting standards for architectural design, it also outlines standards and responsibilities for stormwater and wastewater management, conservation of agricultural lands and preserved areas, beautification of the common areas, maintenance and snowplowing of the roads, etc.  The Covenants and Restrictions are designed to protect both the investment of Foote Farm homeowners and the integrity of the common lands and landscape.

I’ve heard that the Covenants are unduly restrictive.  Is this true?

The original Covenants and Restrictions set in place by the developer included some items (like fines for cutting trees, mandated garaging of vehicles, etc) that were deemed by the HOA to be overly restrictive.  As part of our Act 250 Permit renewal process, many of these restrictions were relaxed in 2011 to allow for more common sense management of the property. These include allowance for the removal of trees that are of invasive species, dead, dying, diseased or otherwise dangerous or undesirable; lawn areas are now encouraged to be minimized (for noise of maintenance reasons) rather than large lawn areas being prohibited; cars are encouraged to be garaged or screened rather than required to be garaged.

Is the house location specified on each lot?

Yes, to a certain degree. Each lot has a 100’x100′ building envelope in which all ‘disturbance” (outside of the driveway) is to be contained.  The actual dwelling may be sited as the homeowner pleases within the building envelope. 

Does each lot have a view?

No, not all.  Some have open views to the east or north; others filtered views to the west. Others are more private or secluded. But, everyone enjoys fabulous views of Snake and Buck Mountains and/or the Cornwall Ledges each time they walk around the property, and views of the Green Mountains and Adirondacks when driving to or from Foote Farm. Being surrounded by the beauty of the Champlain Valley and the surrounding mountains — along with the “instant community” of neighbors and proximity to Middlebury — are some of the great things about living at Foote Farm!

Will I see other homes from mine?

In most cases, yes… to a degree.  While Vermonters have been traditionally known to not want to see their neighbors’ homes, Foote Farm is first and foremost a neighborhood where face-to-face social interactions are encouraged and supported by relative proximity among neighbors.  Sociological research indicates that strong and cohesive neighborhoods are better environments to raise children, and also contribute to improved physical and mental health of all. The social support that a strong neighborhood provides can even serve as a buffer against various forms of adversity, such as storms or prolonged power outages. Rather than live in isolation as those on 10+ acre lots do, neighbors living at Foote Farm know one another, enjoy each other’s company upon occasion, and look out for one another.

I heard the original developer went bankrupt.  Is that true?

Yes, a victim of bad timing, a long and arduous approval process, Act 250 compliance and cost overruns in engineering and infrastructure construction.  The project was initiated in 2003 when the real estate market was robust and an upscale community of lavish homes on $200,000 lots didn’t seem too much of a stretch, even for Vermont.  Fast forward to 2007 when the first lots came on the market and the real estate market had softened, only to be followed by the financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent real estate “crash’.  The developers ran out of money and the bank foreclosed.

Two of the first residents of Foote Farm, Peter and Patty McCormick, bought the remaining 20 lots at auction and assumed direction and continuance of the project. Since all lots were technically “sold” at that point, management of the property transitioned from the ‘developer’ to the Foote Farm Homeowners’ Association.

The silver lining is that the McCormicks were able to relist the remaining lots at prices significantly lower than the original developers, while also carrying forward the basic tenets of community and conservation that the project was founded on and which influenced their decision to live here.  It is also a bonus for everyone to have the majority owners live on site and take a keen interest in the long-term improvement and beautification of the property.

To what extent is Foote Farm linked to Middlebury College?

Only by proximity, as is most everything in the greater Middlebury area. There is and will likely continue to be a strong connection between Foote Farm residents and the College, but certainly not to the exclusion of others. Current residents at Foote Farm include College parents, alumni and employees.