Recreation land resolution in Newport paves way for construction of agricultural education center


Valley News Correspondent

Published: 08-15-2023 5:17 PM

NEWPORT — The months-long effort to find a parcel for recreation to replace land next to the high school where the school district’s new agricultural center will be built appears to be over.

On Monday, the Selectboard approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Newport School District that designates a town-owned parcel at the corner of Corbin Road and North Main Street as the replacement property.

The property, near the new public water well, had been previously considered but was rejected by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, or DES, because development would have included a parking area, which is no longer the case.

“We have agreed with the land swap for the (Career Technical Education) center,” Brown said.

The resolution means the school district can be issued a building permit to begin construction of the planned 10,000-square-foot new agricultural center, interim Town Manager Paul Brown said Tuesday. Brown said he expects the building permit to be issued later this week.

Issuance of the permit was put on hold when it was discovered in February that some of the land where the center will be built was the site of a former outdoor hockey rink that was part of 150 acres purchased by the town in the 1970s.

A grant from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund partially funded the purchase. Conditions of the grant included that if the land was no longer used for recreation, the town was required to find a replacement parcel of similar size and develop it for recreation. Failure to do so could result in fines and penalties.

School officials said the district did not have acceptable property, about an acre, and turned to the town. The district was eager to resolve the issue because it needed to break ground for the new center in early September or face additional construction costs.

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In the spring, former Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg suggested the area where a new public water well is being developed in North Newport as a replacement parcel and began working with DES.

Jeff Kessler, who was Selectboard chairman at the time, said in April he was hopeful the land was acceptable but wanted assurances from DES.

DES informed the town in May it would not approve use of the land in the wellhead protection area because of proposed parking on the site. On Tuesday, Brown said parking was eliminated and DES does not object to a practice soccer field. Brown estimated it could be about a year before all the work is done for the field to be ready.

When voters overwhelmingly approved a $15.4 million project in March 2022 for renovations and expansion of the district’s Sugar River Valley Technical Center, the building was to be near the existing center at the south end of the campus, which also includes the middle school and high school. When it was discovered that the land was not suitable for development, plans were changed to relocate it on the north end that would include the location of the former outdoor hockey rink.

In February, resident Ed Karr brought to the town’s attention the LWCF grant conditions, which were previously unknown. The town further researched the issue and confirmed what Karr said.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at