The St. Johnsbury Select Board has voted to give up hundreds of property claims it had received from the British following the Revolutionary War.
It was an act that not only removes an archaic level of paperwork lingering in scores of St. Johnsbury land titles but also eliminates hundreds of dollars in property transfer fees.
“$400 for three pieces of paper,” said St. Johnsbury Town Clerk Stacey Jewell as she briefed the select board at their regular meeting Monday night at the St. Johnsbury Welcome Center.
According to documents provided by Jewell, the so-called “Glebe lands” were reserved for the Church of England, schools, colleges and other “ministerial support” functions in the original charters of Vermont towns.
The leases remained in place after the war but were transferred to the victors.
“After the American Revolution and the U.S. Constitution separated the church from the state, lots reserved for the church or ministry were generally dedicated to the use of schools and the care of such lands was placed in the hands of the respective town select boards,” reads the document.
For many years after the war, the Glebe leases paid the town 25 cents a year per property. That ended in 1996 but a $400 property transfer fee remained for any Glebe lease property sold with $350 going to an pay attorney fees and $50 to the school district.
A new Vermont law goes into effect in January of 2020 requiring towns to either keep the Glebe lands and account for them or release them to their owners. Jewell supported an immediate release now before the beginning of the town’s fiscal year on July 1.
“I truly feel it’s an expense to the new homeowner that they don’t need to pay,” said Jewell.
The select board agreed and voted unanimously to release the Glebe leases.
“It makes no sense to keep them on the books in my estimation,” said selectman Jeff Moore.
“If you research the history of the Glebe lease lands, it’s crazy,” said Oddy. “The town gets nothing out of it.”
Jewell said that on average there are 2-4 such Glebe lease property transfers in St. Johnsbury per year.
“It’s most of the property in the village and most of it in the downtown area,” said Jewell.