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Robb Family Farm gets tax relief from town

BRATTLEBORO—The Selectboard recently granted the Robb Family Farm, a 110-year-old farm in West Brattleboro, a Fiscal Year 2018 tax waiver through the Farm Tax Stabilization Program, which was created to preserve actively farmed land in town.

The Robb’s participation in the program isn’t new, but there was a question about whether the Selectboard would allow the family to continue receiving the tax break because of some of the program’s rules.

As Town Manager Peter B. Elwell explained at the July 11 regular Selectboard meeting, one requirement is “at least two-thirds of the household’s income has to be provided by the farm on the land.”

But because the Robb family is in what Elwell calls “generational transition” in the farm’s operations, “for the last few years, farming hasn’t provided at least 67 percent of their income,” he said, but added, “it is providing a substantial amount.”

In a memorandum Elwell submitted to the Selectboard, he wrote that the program’s review committee, consisting of himself, Board Chair Kate O’Connor, and Finance Director John O’Connor, has “determined that the proportional relationship between the Robbs’ 2016 farming income and non-farm income is not an indication that the Robbs have reduced their commitment to farming the land that is tax stabilized.”

Elwell goes on to point out, “the Robbs have reinvested in various aspects of their agricultural activity and are unequivocally continuing to farm the land as required by the rules of the program."

At the Selectboard meeting, Elwell said the Robbs’ operations are consistent with “the philosophical basis of the program and the community value of providing this tax relief."

“This is a waiver that I’d gladly do,” said Selectboard member John Allen.

His colleagues unanimously agreed, and the Robb Family Farm can continue to receive some relief through the town’s Farm Tax Stabilization Program during FY18.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #417 (Wednesday, July 19, 2017). This story appeared on page 0.

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