Still no lease for Farm in the Dell

News-Argus Managing Editor
Tuesday, June 11, 2019
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Heart of Montana Farm in the Dell board members (from left) Becky Jackson, Kaylene Patten and Mike Huber hold the program’s banner up in front of the barn at the Poor Farm. Board members are working with County Commissioners to hammer out a lease of the Poor Farm facility.

Photo by Deb Hill

Efforts find a location for the Heart of Montana Farm in the Dell home for adults with developmental disabilities continue to progress, albeit slowly. 

Members of the non-profit group are hopeful they soon will have a lease for use of the County Poor Farm property, on which they plan to build a group home and farm facilities. 

Three members of the group attended the Fergus County commissioner’s meeting Monday afternoon, where the discussion centered on information still needed to finalize the lease agreement.

“I’d like to have a conceptual plan for the facility,” said Commissioner Sandy Youngbauer. 

“How detailed do you want this plan to be?” asked Farm in the Dell Board Member Veronica Sweeney.

“I just want to see a visual of what might happen, of the approximate locations of your buildings,” Youngbauer said. “We want to maintain the integrity of the ag land out there.”

Youngbauer referred to fields used for hay on the Poor Farm property.

“We don’t want development in the ag land, in the hay field,” she said. “We don’t want houses and barns in the hay field.”

“I think we’re all on the same page,” Commission Presiding Officer Ross Butcher said. “We just want to ensure the ag land stays in production.”

Farm in the Dell board member Kaylene Patten said her group has no problem with that.

“We’re trying to create a farm ourselves,” she said. “That’s what Farm in the Dell is, a life-long home in an agricultural setting.”

The completion of the Farm in the Dell facility could include a greenhouse or machine shop, as well as repairs to the existing barn and construction of the living facility, according to group member Becky Jackson.

“I’m trying to get an idea of what is meant by ‘keeping it in ag,’” Jackson told the commissioners.

“What we’re saying,” Butcher explained, “is there’s a lot of land out there, a lot of area to look at for locating your buildings, and they don’t need to be in the hay field.”

Commissioner Carl Seilstad said the county attorney had reviewed the proposed lease provide by Farm in the Dell members and found some issues with it.

“We can’t do a 99 year lease,” Seilstad said. “Maybe we can do a 20-year lease, but not 99.”

Seilstad said other lease issues include language about whether or not hunting will be permitted on the land, and what happens to any permanent improvements built by the group. 

Other concerns raised by the commissioners included flood plain permits, location of septic systems, whether the lease payment included only “in-kind” work (repairs, construction and fencing done on the property by Farm in the Dell participants) or whether part of the lease payment would be in cash, and where facilities would be located.

According to Patten, the Farm in the Dell plan is to house up to six individuals with their caretakers, and to develop agriculturally-based enterprises that will help fund the facility.

The discussion will continue at the June 25 meeting of the County Commission.



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