John Hammer, Contributor
Anyone who says that the Selectboard members of Charlotte don’t earn their stipends would have had another thing coming after their 5½- hour meeting on March 22. The discussions ranged from complex to simple administrative decisions.
It seemed that vehicular issues were in fashion, beginning with the naming of Swamp Street, a short road extending south from the Hinesburg Road across from the entrance to Stoney Loam Farm. It is very appropriately named, as it heads south toward the largest swamp in Charlotte that extends all the way to Prindle Road. This was quickly followed by approval of applications for the annual Kelly Brush Bike Ride on Sept. 11 and the Cycle4CMT Bike Ride on Aug. 29. RaceVT won approval for two bike races—the first on May 8 (with a COVID delay date of July 3) and the annual Covered Bridge Half-Marathon on Sept. 11. It’s noteworthy to mention that the Covered Bridge Marathon and the Kelly Brush Rides have never run into a conflict over many years. RaceVT has pledged to donate $1 for each rider in both events to the Charlotte Recreation Commission.
The next agenda item found the wheels getting much smaller—skateboard wheels. Israel Phelps and Kiki Rose presented a concept idea for a 7,000-square-foot skatepark in Charlotte. They presented a number of plans but said that a park could be designed to fit the plot on which it is located. A concrete park might cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $315,000, and they are looking to raise the money through fundraising, grant writing and from state organizational support. Among the possible sites considered were the Town Beach, the Flea Market or other parcels owned by the town. The board asked for further study and requested that a draft resolution be prepared for further consideration. Louise McCarren said, ‘Great idea! … I love the energy and the availability of space for kids to skateboard, ride bikes or whatever.” Skatepark use would be extended to BMX, rollerblades and roller skate users.
From small wheels to no wheels at all, the agenda moved on to a presentation of the final plan for the Town Link Trail Western Alignment Scoping Study by the Trail Committee, for the extension of the Town Link Trail from the West Town Center to the Town Beach. The comprehensive study narrowed down five potential direct routes and numerous other route options with mixes and matches of route sections to one basic trail alignment with the intent of trying to avoid traffic on major roads as much as feasible. This route basically follows an off-road alignment through the town-owned Burns property to Ferry Road, along Ferry Road as bike and ped lanes to the railroad, then across open fields to Lake Road and on to the beach. There is a bypass route that goes around the village and avoids the steep hill on Ferry Road. The report is now in the hands of the Selectboard to review and accept or edit as they wish. Since the Link Trail has not yet been completed from East Charlotte to the West Town Center, there is plenty of time for further consideration on this piece of the puzzle. Many thanks are due to the team led by a specially appointed steering committee, spearheaded by Jim Donovan, who contributed about $50,000 worth of professional planning work to the project. Further, the new revised Trail Landowner Permission Form now includes stronger protection for landowners.
Finally, in keeping with the subject of streets and byways, the board went on to approve a Highway Access Permit to Hergenrother Construction, LLC for its proposed road cut at 6851 Spear Street.
Moving onto the grass, the annual exercise commenced with the approval of the ash tree removal and mowing contracts. The board chose Adam Dantzscher to do the town brush-hogging ($5,572) and cemetery mowing ($5,390). The contract covering town mowing and land maintenance went to Guilmette Landworks, LLC for $23,207, and Teachers Tree Service will take on the ash tree removal project for $18,500.
Lewis Mudge, Charlotte’s newest Selectman, has hit the ground running. Following up on one of his prime election goals, he has already undertaken a personal study of the town’s Conflict of Interest Policy. His comment was simply that, “It’s not strong, it’s aspirational.” He went on to say that the current document falls short by implying that, “We’re going to try to do our best to do good.” He feels that it does not inspire confidence among the townspeople. Mudge has found that its weakness discourages potential office holders and committee members/commissioners from stepping forward as it does not provide the protections necessary for confident actions. He has been working with the Vermont State Ethics Commission and has identified the Shelburne model as being strong and effective. His aim is to further study and adapt that model as a template and present his findings to the Selectboard soon. His thought is then to encourage movement on to the establishment of an Ethics Committee. That, with a comprehensive training regimen, would provide a shield against bad actions and build confidence among the townspeople in their town’s government.
As one last administrative action before the board adjourned to take on its role as Liquor Control Board, it went on to renew the 20-year lease for Thompson’s Point lots 22 & 23 to Jane Allmon Heath.
In the closing half hour of its marathon meeting, the Liquor Control Board passed the issuance of first- and third-class liquor licenses to the Charlotte Restaurant Group’s Backyard Bistro. The bistro, located behind the new Charlotte Crossings building, also scored an outside consumption license for a 40’x50’ tent covering the times between noon and 11 p.m. Not so simple was the granting of an outdoor consumption license to Roland’s Place. An on-going issue between Roland’s and nearby neighbors has raised the question of noise. Because the impact of an earlier environmental court ruling was not fully understood, the license was deferred until the next meeting on April 12 pending the receipt of more information. Lastly, a second-class liquor license was issued to Spear’s Corner Store.
Because of the extended length of the meeting, a number of issues were left on the table and will be covered in the next meeting on April 12.