After a farmer leased part of the Town of Purcellville’s Aberdeen Property to grow corn and soybeans, the land will once again sit vacant.
Chris Tranchitella, the farmer who has been planting his crops on 120 acres of the town’s 189-acre lot since 2011, will not be returning this year to plant soybeans. Town Attorney Sally Hankins said last week that Tranchitella notified the town of his decision on July 24, noting that this year’s planting window has passed.
Tranchitella’s farming of the land sparked concern among town staff and council members in late June when Town Manager David Mekarski ordered Tranchitella to cease and desist upon realizing that the farmer had already used $5,000 worth of Roundup to prepare the land for planting. Because the chemical had been sprayed within 100 feet of the property’s three wellheads, the Town Council halted its discussions of generating revenue from the property by converting 10 acres of it into a hops farm.
To determine if the Roundup had contaminated the property’s water table, the town last month collected water samples from the wells. Interim Public Works Director Dawn Ashbacher said that “chemicals of concern were not detected” in that sampling.
She said that glyphosate, which is the primary chemical in Roundup, was not detected above the laboratory detection limit of 0.1 mg per liter and that nitrate was not detected above the laboratory detection limit of 0.5 mg per liter. She said the complete report will be posted to the town’s website next week.
Despite the concern of contamination, the Town Council on July 10 voted unanimously to allow Tranchitella to continue farming through the end of 2018, requiring him to pay the town $25 per acre per year. Although that would have provided the town with $1,500 for the remainder of the year, Tranchitella two weeks later backed out of the agreement.
Before that point, Tranchitella had farmed the land from 2011 to 2016 with a written contract between he and the town. In subsequent years, he verbally renewed his contract with former public works director Alex Vanegas. From 2011-2015, Tranchitella paid the town the annual $25 per acre to farm. When the town in 2015 increased the Purcellville Teen Center’s rent payments to manage Bush Tabernacle operations in the Fireman’s Field complex, it was unable to continue accepting Tranchitella’s rent payments because of the previous Internal Revenue Service restrictions on the tax-exempt bonds used to finance the Aberdeen Property and Fireman’s Field.
In place of the rent payments, Tranchitella agreed to mow and bush hog the land, which, according to Mekarski, has provided the town with a financial gain of $3,000 more than what the original contract anticipated.
As for the town’s idea to lease 10 acres of the property to individual hops growers to cultivate their crop, the Town Council has not advanced those plans since it authorized town staff to study the feasibility of that project in June.
Ashbacher said how the town will use the property is “still under discussion.”