WINDHAM — Nearly six months after voters agreed to buy the Campbell Farm property for conservation purposes, many questions remain surrounding the farmhouse’s future.
During the Aug. 25 selectmen meeting, many town officials agreed that the home’s longtime resident should be allowed to remain on the property as a tenant, though they acknowledged the site’s natural landscape is more valuable than the home.
“Now that we’ve acquired this farm, we’re working to finalize the public and personal agreements,” Town Administrator David Sullivan said. “That process could take at least six more months.”
Sullivan said it’s unclear now whether the town would retain the site’s home, which needs renovations.
“But if we’re going to keep this house, we need to take action prior to the next town meeting,” Sullivan said.
Voters at the March polls approved the $860,000 purchase of the 137 Kendall Pond Road property, with 2,031 in favor and 1,340 opposed.
This week, Conservation Commission Chair Wayne Morris said the situation is an unusual one because the commission typically handles land, not buildings.
“We really haven’t had to deal with something like this before,” Morris said.
The four-bedroom farmhouse, set on 62-acres, dates to the late 1860s. A local property assessment completed in 2013 list the home’s value at $76,000.
Morris said the home’s longtime tenant has lived on the property for about 25 years. “It makes sense to have her stay here and not leave that farmhouse vacant,” he added.
Selectman Bruce Breton noted that other communities have worked with organizations like the New Hampshire Farm Bureau to restore town-owned, historic structures, and, in some cases, permit live-in caretakers to stay on the property.
“If we were to keep this property and repurpose it eventually, it would need some work done first,” Breton said.
“Obviously, if we were to go that route we’d feel very strongly about maintaining its history and making sure that home never gets torn down,” Morris added.
Town officials noted that if they decide to part ways with the house, voters at the March 2015 town meeting would need to have final say.
Selectman Roger Hohenberger said the question of the farmhouse was initially raised during the development of last year’s town warrant.
“As I recall, there was never any defined plans for this building,” Hohenberger said. “As for me, I was always in favor of this article based on the land, and I really don’t know what the town would do with this house.
Selectman Joel Desilets said he felt “it was a good idea to consider extending rental of this property,” but felt the town should eventually sell the farmhouse.
“If this house isn’t lived in, it could deteriorate very quickly,” Desilets said.
Chairman Ross McLeod and Selectman Al Letizio agreed.
“We need to work out something mutually beneficial to the town,” Letizio said.
“I supported this land acquisition from the beginning, but I don’t see (the town) in the business of having a house,” McLeod said.
McLeod further noted that the home is “too far away from the town’s center” and wouldn’t likely be used by many.
“If we could get some money back towards the purchase bond, that would be a good thing,” he added.
Morris said he envisions a network of walking trails on the Campbell Farm property.
“I’d love to see trails though through the fields, down through the woods and over by Beaver Brook,” he told selectmen.
Meanwhile, conservation officials have begun clearing overgrown brush on the site. “We’ve been clearing an area along Kendall Pond Road because most people don’t even realize there are fields in there,” Morris said.
Future plans for the Campbell farmhouse will be addressed at an upcoming selectmen meeting.