Letters to the editor – February 11, 2021



Support for Lewis Mudge’s candidacy
To the editor:

I am writing to offer my support for Lewis Mudge’s candidacy for the two-year Selectboard seat. I have found Lewis to be intelligent and committed to Charlotte not just as a place where he has chosen to reside, but where he and his family want to grow roots and give back to their local community.

I strongly believe that in order to better the world in which we live we all need to contribute in some meaningful way. That can mean volunteering at your local food bank, coaching youth sports or acting as a teen mentor, or it can mean serving on your local planning commission or as an elected official. Lewis shares these values both in his professional career as Central Africa Director for Human Rights Watch and in his candidacy for the Charlotte Selectboard. I believe he has a unique set of experiences and skills that he can bring to our town government, and I think he will do so in a respectful and diplomatic manner.

Lewis has a balanced and thoughtful perspective on our community. He is sensitive to what makes Charlotte special that it inspired him and his family to move here in the first place, but he also recognizes that change is inevitable and neither good nor bad on its own. Instead that change should be guided thoughtfully and transparently to achieve the best possible outcomes for our town’s future. In Lewis I believe we will have a Selectboard member who is open to discussion, welcoming of ideas and respectful of our community values. I am confident that he will work hard for our collective best interests.

Lastly, I am encouraged that we have a number of local residents who have thrown their hats in the ring for the two available Selectboard seats. I think we owe them a debt of gratitude as well as to those currently serving and those who have served in the past. The recently passed former Secretary of State George Schultz’s favorite quote was, “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” That has never been more apparent than now. We need committed people willing to serve for the greater public good. But it is also a reminder that our democracy is dependent upon all of us to continue to do our best to contribute in any number of ways, the most basic of which is to exercise our democratic right to vote. So, while the purpose of my letter is to support Lewis’ candidacy, more importantly I would encourage each of you to get informed and simply get out and vote. You can request a mail-in ballot from the Town Clerk or you can vote in person starting Wednesday, Feb. 10. Thank you for your consideration of Lewis Mudge’s candidacy.

Your neighbor,
Evan Langfeldt

Vote for Lewis Mudge for Selectboard
To the editor:

Lewis brings new energy and will be an asset as a member of the Selectboard. He is eager to learn, is a good listener, and wants the best for the residents of Charlotte. His educational background with advanced degrees in law and government will complement this work.

He has a young family that includes his wife and three children, with two in CCS now and their third child will start kindergarten in a couple years. Lewis is a resident living on Greenbush Road. His recent community activities have included joining the Town Conservation Committee, and communications published in The Charlotte News regarding human rights and voicing his opinion regarding the future of East Charlotte. He is a member of the Charlotte Congregational Church, participating as a Sunday School teacher.

Professionally, Lewis is the Central Africa Director at Human Rights Watch. With his recent job promotion, he works remotely from home in Charlotte with occasional trips to Africa. Previous to his current assignment, Lewis completed an assignment with the Peace Corp in Lesotho, Africa, and Habitat for Humanity in North Carolina, plus several consulting and research activities with human rights issues. He also has extensive financial and management experience.

Lewis is investing in Charlotte for the long term. Please support his candidacy.

Thank you,
Lane Morrison

Frank Tenney for Selectboard
My name is Frank Tenney, currently vice chair of the Selectboard. I am on the ballot for the Selectboard three-year term.

First and foremost, I would like to thank all Town employees and volunteers for their amazing dedication and commitment to public service during this time of global and local uncertainty.

The Board has been very busy lately meeting four, five and even six times a month. I have attended almost all meetings, and I am up to date on the current and future issues facing the Town.

A partial list of the items discussed or completed recently include:

  • The Library addition
  • The electric charger station at Town Hall
  • The completion of the State Park Road section of the Town Link Trail
  • The rollout of the application process and fee schedule for the West Charlotte Village Municipal Wastewater Ordinance
  • A new committee to explore and develop the idea of a Charlotte Community Center
  • The preemptive removal of Ash trees in the Town Right-of-Way
  • A committee to investigate a sand shed to reduce wasted materials and time
  • An update to the master plan for the Charlotte Beach, and
  • The proposed amendments to the Land Use Regulations and Town Plan Map by the Planning Commission.

The Town Plan and Land Use Regulations updates are important issues for all residents. The Planning Commission has spent two years of open meetings to bring a recommendation to the Selectboard.

These changes will appear on the ballot.

  • Article 6 – Town Plan Update – This expands the land included in the East Village Commercial District.
  • Article 7 – Land Use Regulation Update – This reduces the 5 acres residential lot size to 1 acre in the East Village Commercial District and allows septic to be transferred from this district to the Rural District.
  • Article 8 – Accessory-On-Farm Business – This creates a new separate set of regulations governing these types of businesses.
  • Article 9 – This corrects grammatical mistakes and updates definitions throughout the Land Use Regulations.

All of these Articles can be voted on individually. I have heard many comments for and against these recommendations. I voted to place the updates on the ballot since to do otherwise could deny residents the chance to make these decisions for themselves.

I look forward to continue working with the current Selectboard: Matt, Louise, Jim, and whoever wins the two-year term. Even though many people have asked, I will not be littering the roadsides with signs, posters or mailboxes with flyers.

Please help me continue working for Charlotters another three years.

Frank W. Tenney

Tenney for Selectboard
To the editor:

When Frank Tenney ran for a seat on the Selectboard in 2019, I wrote the endorsement below:

“I have worked with Frank as a member of the zoning board for three years and I have followed his first term as a Charlotte Selectman. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the town and its regulations. This is priceless when developing and implementing policies that shape the town.

He works well with everyone in Town Hall, is a stickler for detail, and is a good listener. He is thoughtful, honest, and has no agenda other than the responsible preservation and evolution of our community. When you bundle all this into a Charlotte native, Frank makes a valuable contribution that we cannot afford to lose.”

Since then, the Selectboard has made him the board’s vice chair, and his commitment to Charlotte has been plain to see.

Ironically, the era of Zoom town committee meetings has made it easier for everyone to be engaged. You don’t have to leave home.

Frank has taken advantage of this by listening in on the Trails, Recreation, Planning, Park & Wildlife Refuge, and Senior Center meetings. And he is on the Conservation, Energy, Community Center, and Salt Shed committees.

His commitment to Charlotte deserves our continued support.

Stuart Bennett

Trails Committee says yes on Article 4
To the editor:

This year’s Town Meeting will not be like any previous, but the all-volunteer Charlotte Trails Committee is again asking you to vote in favor of Article 4 to fund continued construction on the Town Link Trail that eventually will connect Mt. Philo, the West Village and the Town Beach. Vermont mandates that towns vote each year for funding of multi-year projects like the Town Link Trail.

There are many reasons why trails are a worthwhile investment in our community—improved quality of life, attracting taxpaying families to our town, and a safe way to exercise off of busy roads. But even better proof is in the pudding: because of COVID-19, we counted 220 pedestrians and 110 cyclists using the Town Link Trail during a 10-day period in June. Even on a chilly, gray weekday afternoon in November, there were over 20 pedestrians and a half-dozen bikers on a single section of the trail. These numbers are echoed across Vermont and the country. According to a UVM study published in December, 70 percent of respondents in Vermont walked outside more because of the pandemic, citing mental health and general well-being as chief benefits. Nationwide, trail usage was up by as much as 80 percent over 2019, according to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

The growth in trail usage was notable enough for Governor Scott to mention it in his recent annual budget address: “Through the pandemic, we have seen increased use of our trails, paths and parks as folks looked for healthy ways to get out of the house. Let’s make them even more attractive and accessible.” He added that outdoor recreation projects “improve communities, grow economic activity in the areas that need it most, and strengthen our Vermont brand.” It is important that Scott mentioned accessibility. Vermont offers ample challenging terrain for serious hikers, cyclists and skiers, but only municipal trails are wide, smooth and level enough for all kinds of trail users, including children, parents with strollers, and the elderly.

The Trails Committee, which works at the direction of the Selectboard, has been a responsible steward of taxpayers’ hard-earned money. Many have enjoyed the new section of the Town Link Trail that was completed along State Park Road this fall, keeping your tax money in the community by using a Charlotte construction company to do the work. Previous sections of the trail were completed on time and on budget. Trails themselves are among the least expensive forms of community infrastructure. Charlotte has benefited from volunteers spending countless hours planning trails, preparing the ground for construction, putting up signs and kiosks, making GPS maps, and maintaining trails once they are built.

There is a final reason for supporting Article 4. New federal and state grant money that will be available later this year and in 2022 requires local communities to contribute to the costs of trail projects. A favorable vote on Article 4 will position Charlotte to apply for those grants.

Thank you to the citizens of Charlotte for supporting this incredible town asset over the years. We will continue to work hard for you to connect and increase our trails in town. Please vote YES on Article 4!

The Charlotte Trails Committee

Vote NO on LUR Articles 6 & 7
To the editor:

We serve as volunteer members of Charlotte’s Zoning Board of Adjustment. We interpret the intent of the Land Use Regulations (LUR) to help residents obtain permits for building projects.

However, we write today as Charlotte citizens who care about the future of our town.

We don’t support the proposed amendments to Charlotte’s Land Use Regulations in Articles 6 and 7 that will be on the ballot on Town Meeting Day 2021.

The proposed LUR amendments are part of a broader, thoughtful development initiative that was launched over 10 years ago. Discussions and surveys engaged residents in the plans for development of East Charlotte. The result was a master plan for developing the East Charlotte Village Commercial District with specific recommendations, released in 2010.

Residential development that is “affordable, attractive and walkable” is one of the recommendations.

Other recommendations include maintaining community character, preserving historical properties, enhancing recreational facilities, and encouraging development of commercial properties like coffee shops or a pub.

These recommendations have been incorporated in the Town Plan, and a key step in moving ahead with the plan is amending the LURs.

We don’t believe the proposed LUR amendments do justice to the range of recommendations in the master plan.

The proposed changes simply relax the LURs to allow greater density of residential development in East Charlotte. That opens up the possibility of development at odds with the intentions of the master plan.

Furthermore, in taking a piecemeal approach to Charlotte’s development, the Town is engaging in “spot zoning.” That is, making a change for a single permittable situation that would not be appropriate for continued growth and development of the community. Spot zoning is generally frowned upon in community development scenarios.

Without the broader context, it’s difficult to picture what East Charlotte will look like in the future.

What will East Charlotte look like after the proposed development? Will we have more wealthy seasonal residents? More young working families with school-age children? More senior citizens? All of the above? What do we consider affordable housing for these populations? What do we consider “attractive?”

By not fully addressing the requirements for residential development as agreed by Charlotte residents in the Town Plan, the proposed amendments to the LURs risk opening the door to development that was not intended or imagined by Charlotte residents in the planning process.

In order to make our votes on the LURs considered and thoughtful, we want a clearer picture of how Charlotte will develop and who will be our new neighbors and the things we will see when driving or walking through the future East Charlotte commercial district.

Until we see that clearer picture, we will vote “No” on the proposed amendments. We ask you to consider doing the same.

Lane Morrison and Matt Zucker
Editor’s note: Matt Zucker is married to Claudia Marshall, who is the publisher of The Charlotte News and the president of its board.

Beware of zoning changes
To the editor:

I’m writing to ask Charlotte voters to take a look at Articles 6 and 7 on the Charlotte Town Meeting ballot which could have significant and swift implications for the character of our town. This is a case where the effect is greater than the sum of its parts.

Existing zoning regulations are nearly the same in East and West Charlotte and allow for appropriate growth and development including Affordable and Senior housing. However, the new proposed changes only impact East Charlotte and would significantly increase the amount of development that could be possible. This includes doubling the land area of the East Charlotte commercial district, allowing for sewage pumping to other parts of town, and decreasing the minimum lot size from five acres to one acre.

At first glance going from five down to one acre per lot doesn’t seem unreasonable. However, keep in mind that density bonuses already allow 20 Senior housing units, or 10 Affordable housing units, mixed into ¼ acre lots.  This multiplying effect would allow the growth potential of the commercial East Charlotte Village to increase from 15 units, today, to upward of 60 units in the future. Why should East Charlotte Village be rezoned to allow five times the density of West Charlotte Village?

Those attending the past few public Charlotte Selectboard Meetings have learned that the properties targeted for potential dense development have insufficient sewage capacity due to poor soils. As a result, sewage would be pumped across borders and potentially into existing nearby neighborhoods. This is completely crazy but would be formally allowed under the new regulations.

We have seen no village plan that would propose infrastructure improvements and address the very real problem of pedestrian/traffic safety. Should these elements be an afterthought and dropped into the taxpayer’s lap?

Let’s promote reasonable growth in East Charlotte and keep zoning density consistent with West Charlotte.

Please vote NO on Articles 6 & 7.
Rick Leonard

Not everyone voted for the Town Plan
To the editor:

First off, I want to offer an apology to Chris Snyder for calling the Kwiniaska development a “debacle.” Poor choice of words.

To the lay person driving by, it’s a bit of a shame that open space is now gone. Do we want the East Charlotte Village to look more like Shelburne? That’s not why my family lives here. Would it be nice to fix up what we have? Sure.

Second is a quick reminder about the Town Plan and how we got into this predicament about the future of East Charlotte. As I understand it, the Planning Commission’s job is to help facilitate the Town Plan and bring any changes to residents for a vote.

It’s important to remember that not everyone voted for the Town Plan and not everyone has to agree with how it’s executed. The proposed expansion of the East Charlotte commercial district and changes to residential density in the area (Articles 6 and 7) are good examples of this.

We are a small town that likes to take it slow. Call me crazy but five acres to one for residential–along with sewage movement outside the village district and an expansion to the commercial district–sounds fast. And the potential impact is still unclear at this late stage in the process.

We have plenty of opportunities available under the current land use regulations in the East Charlotte Village District. Just because they don’t suit the developer du jour, doesn’t mean we should change them.

Vote NO on Articles 6 and 7.
Alex Bunten

Insights into Charlotte zoning history
To the editor:

I wanted to share some of the history of Charlotte Town Planning.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, I served on the Charlotte Town Planning Commission (three years as a member and seven chairing the commission). This was a time of growth in the town. It included the possibility of a town sewage plant, senior housing, and the goal of maintaining as much as possible of the rural character that so enhances Charlotte.

The commission began the work of creating the first town plan for Charlotte and possibly the state. Without a plan, the town zoning was set at one-acre residential zoning. To put change and growth temporarily on the shelf, the town initiated “Interim Zoning.” This put Charlotte zoning at a 10-acre minimum for any growth until the town plan could be developed and voters would approve the plan. During this time, surveys were generated that helped direct the “then future” projected for the town.

The main goal, at that time, was to keep our farms and rural beauty and develop a plan without taxing residents, schools, roads and vistas. At this time, the federal government was helping fund sewer systems and wastewater plants, and the Charlotte Selectboard was reviewing possibilities. Working together, what resulted was the decision to pass on the sewer proposal.

The issue of planning for senior housing was also considered. At that time, there were no commercial bus routes running that would accommodate seniors living south of Shelburne and Burlington. And public transportation was important. It was determined that, if senior housing were to be developed down the road, it should occur adjacent to Route 7, which would accommodate bus transportation. The other determination was to maintain Route 7 as a funnel without new access and egress. The light at 7 and Ferry Road came a number of years later.

We considered various zones for residential and rural designations and the feasibility of development rights to provide equity for farmers. There were many hearings, and I fielded some angry phone calls (often while trying to put supper on the table), staying accountable to Charlotte’s farm families who could justifiably state, “My farm is my money in the bank.”

Sadly, most of Charlotte’s farms have disappeared in the past 40-plus years. Saving them should have been a function of the town plan.

The first Charlotte Town Plan was considered an improvement over the old one-acre zoning. For me, it was less than its potential. Five-acre zoning was approved at Town Meeting and maintained until improvements made by subsequent town plans.

As I read about the new zoning proposals for East Charlotte, I see some of the same issues that were addressed over 40 years ago. East Charlotte has remained a rural stop at a four corners and maintained its character. Changing zoning acreage and density will impact traffic, road maintenance, safety, school enrollment, town budgets and taxes and forever, the character of the land. Is that Charlotte’s future?

Nancy Flinn

Proposed changes to East Charlotte Village
To the editor:

We are within days of voting on changes that will forever alter the gentle landscape and quiet character of our sweet little village. Some of us have been watching this slow and painful process of the Planning Commission, and recently the two Selectboard hearings, which were unimpressive to this observer.

Only one Selectboard person had the courage to do the right thing!

As president of the Sheehan Green community for 20-plus years, it is possible that I could speak for some 30+ voters. The Selectboard heard directly from some of them, others wish to not be so vocal. I have been asked to represent a high percentage of them and will attempt to do so with this letter.

Mr. Schneider’s letter in The Charlotte News of January 28 alerts us as to what is ahead for our little village of East Charlotte if we vote “yes” on Articles 6 and 7. We are on the cusp of becoming another Columbia, Md.

Let’s talk about what the Planning Commission and the Selectboard are asking us to approve!

  • Change in density from five acres to one,
  • Increase of the commercial district acreage by 20+ acres, or 122% increase!
  • Increase in new residential housing could be up to 75, (the numbers are without specifics from the Planning Commission).
  • The ability to pump sewage/septic under the road or across the street. (We know where it is coming from but we don’t know where it is going!) “No answers available but we have our suspicions.”
  • Different set of LURs (land use regulations) for similar commercial districts in the same town! (Why would we do that?)
  • No request by the Planning Commission or Selectboard for any impact studies before voting! (That seems to me like buying a home and then inviting the house inspector in to see what’s wrong with my decision!)
  • Absolutely no discussion of the infrastructure needed or the cost to the taxpayers.
  • Here is the last question: Where will the sewage treatment facility be built?

In summary, it appears to me and others that these proposals will benefit a few to the detriment of many! Please vote “no” on Articles 6 and 7.

Richard Stowe
President of Sheehan Green Homeowners Assoc.

Civility and truthfulness above all else…please!
To the editor:

In the last issue of The Charlotte News, you published a letter by Alex Bunten containing personal attacks on several East Charlotters by name and members of our Planning Commission and Selectboard by reference. In addition, you allowed Alex to make up “facts” about the proposed East Charlotte Zoning Changes up for vote on Town Meeting Day and my plans for my property.

The plan Alex declared that I have for the land behind his house is to put 10 to 12 houses on one acre lots. That is not my plan and the zoning changes only affect four or five acres of my property. Therefore, my net density gain under the new zoning map is three or four units, total. I would like to put the Sheehan house on one acre, but my corner is currently zoned for five-acre lots and the eastern two corners are zoned for one acre lots. I would like to work with the Grange to provide them with more parking and perhaps water and septic capacity if possible. And, I want to do the senior housing allowed under current regulations but made practical by the new regulations. Watch for more details in the next Charlotte News.

I believe that Alex’s letter failed to meet the published standards for a Letter to the Editor in The Charlotte News and I think that the Board of Directors should review his letter and their policies regarding letters at a future Board meeting.

Most Charlotters know that Alex served honorably as the editor of The Charlotte News for several years. One would like to think that the journalistic standards he upheld as editor would have led him to state his opinions as opinions and dispense with all of the name calling.

What some Charlotters may not know is that Alex owns the old Baptist Church in East Charlotte which sits on about half an acre. Three of the folks he attacked by name are his adjoining landowners. Alex’s letter was not a personal expression of his opinion about a civic matter, but a below-the-belt attack on his neighbors unworthy of inclusion in a newspaper founded by the Charlotte Congregational Church.

I’d like to correct Alex’s attack on retiring Selectboard member Carrie Spear. She does not have a conflict of interest in the proposed East Charlotte Zoning change as her store is already in the village commercial district so the additions to that district have no impact on her property. Opposing the zoning change to enlarge the village commercial district would have been a conflict of interest in potentially eliminating competition from businesses that might be built in the expanded commercial area.

The Town of Charlotte does have a conflict-of-interest policy which allows for the creation of a municipal panel to review conflict of interest charges. I have encouraged the Selectboard to activate this panel and I hope you will too. The community has a right to know the truth when a conflict of interest charge is levied against a public official and the official has the right to have their good name cleared if they have done nothing wrong.

I appreciate The Charlotte News coverage of the proposed Zoning changes and hope you will continue to provide factual articles and appropriately written opinions in the editions leading up to Town Meeting Day.

Clark Hinsdale

Vote yes on amendment and Town Plan articles
Dear Charlotte friends and neighbors,

I am calling with a sense of urgency to ask that you please become well informed about the town plan and regulation articles coming up for vote this year at town meeting. I am reaching out to friends and neighbors right now to say: VOTE YES in support of the proposed articles on Town Meeting Day.

To my recent surprise and great disappointment, I am hearing faulty messaging sweeping about, almost reminding me of Washington, D.C. This is so, so discouraging.

Please be sure you know what we are proposing, and please do not, carte blanche, believe what a few are saying…that the PC is proposing more development in the village without having done our homework…this could not be further from the truth.

The truth is that Charlotte has very detailed and robust regs today (over 100 pages), and would never let any home be built without a thorough and complete review, including water supply, wastewater, traffic safety etc., etc. Some of you know this very well, while others possibly do not know since you may be newer residents.

In this new round of plan and regulation updates for the East Village, the proposed village-related articles are simply proposing potential to allow for a modest amount of new homes to be built on one-acre lots (vs less affordable five-acre lots) in the village commercial district only. Our regs already provide for far smaller lot size potential for elderly and affordable homes in the entire larger village district. We do not provide for smaller one acre lots for middle income homes. So, to be very conservative, we are only proposing these one-acre lots in the smaller east village commercial district only. That’s it.

My biggest interest as a Planning Commission member today is to make sure my town has decent affordable places for middle income folks to reside in Charlotte and go to CCS. As a middle incomer myself, I know well that home prices have escalated so much since the 1980s, that new middle-income families are just not able to make it work.

Many of you know that I have focused my historic community service time on land conservation, and with great success, largely because Charlotte is blessed with abundant and fabulous nature to nurture. And largely because our town has a generous desire to give money to protect our natural assets. This richness is only a problem if we do not provide for an economically and socio-diverse community. For the sake of community health and justice, we all must make this happen with purpose. It will not happen by itself. This is a very important fact to know.

So please read the Town Plan and the regs online. They are our two bibles and we must all treat them as such, and be in this together. The PC depends upon well informed residents. We love our time as community volunteers, but we can’t do this without you.

Charlotte is at a crossroad, and I sure do hope our little town can be united in our vision.

Marty Illick
Planning Commission