Black Birch Vineyard to buy preserved land in Hatfield

  • Serrell Kanuha ties grape vines for Black Birch Vineyard in Hatfield in 2017. STAFF FILE PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/28/2019 12:58:44 PM

HATFIELD — A winery that moved from Southampton to Hatfield two years ago will be nearly tripling the amount of farmland it can use.

Black Birch Vineyard, which has a 13-acre site at 108 Straits Road, will be purchasing a 26-acre parcel between Straits and North Hatfield roads, where corn and hay have previously been harvested and which was being considered for a housing subdivision.

Black Birch’s acquisition of the land, as what is known as the conservation buyer, will become official in June, at the conclusion of what Mark Wamsley, Kestrel Land Trust’s land conservation manager, describes as a multiple-step process.

That process began when the town agreed to acquire the land from the Sliwoski family by exercising its right of first refusal, under the state’s chapter 61A program which allows agricultural landowners to pay reduced taxes.

The Planning Board, Agricultural Commission and Conservation Commission all recommended that the Select Board pursue this right of first refusal.

Since the Sliwoski family had a deal to sell the land for $430,000 to a developer for a housing project, the town worked with the Kestrel Land Trust to come up with a plan to meet that price.

Town Meeting in January agreed to set aside $120,000 from the Community Preservation Act account, and then Kestrel signed a purchase-and-sale agreement with the Sliwoski family to buy and conserve the property.

“We’re happy the town called us. It’s a unique role that a land trust can play,” Wamsley said. 

Wamsley said at least 70 percent of the 26 acres will remain in farmland in perpetuity. Kestrel is expecting Black Birch Vineyard to keep about 23 acres actively farmed.

The deal allows Black Birch to offset the cost of buying the land by selling three residential building lots, with sufficient road frontage on both Straits and North Hatfield roads, for so-called approval not required plans. Town Meeting appropriated an additional $60,000 that could be used toward making one of these future dwellings affordable, possibly through Habitat for Humanity, and which would qualify on the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development’ s subsidized housing inventory.

Robert Wagner, chairman of the Planning Board and CPA Committee, said this is the first time Hatfield has exercised its right of first refusal, which is not a common tactic for communities in the region.

But Wagner said it was an appropriate use of the right of first refusal since the housing development would have meant sprawl.

“This area of town is mostly farmland, and that would have brought a whole new development,” Wagner said.

The final action needed by the town is to transfer the $120,000, or a pro-rated amount, to execute the sale.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at
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