By Mara Brooks, Editor
At the Selectboard special meeting May 27 members emerged from executive session with a motion to approve a settlement agreement with Andrew Zins.
“We had a very long and robust discussion about this settlement agreement,” Selectboard member Louise McCarren said. “And what the town is getting is a very high level of security that open space will be provided for this property, because we will have a court order that will be filed with the land records.”
The Selectboard held an executive session during its May 24 regular meeting to discuss a proposed settlement with Zins, but after returning from a breakout room Krasnow stated the board was “not ready to make any decisions or actions in relation to the Zins settlement agreement.”
Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow said he believed the signed settlement agreement “will be part of the public record.”
Selectboard continues charging station discussions
The Selectboard continued discussions at a May 27 special meeting regarding resident Carol Conard’s request for a personal electric vehicle charging station on North Shore Drive. Conard previously agreed to provide a sketch detailing measurements for the 240-volt plug to be installed on Thompson’s Point across the road from her camp.
At the May 24 Selectboard meeting, member Louise McCarren requested written confirmation from Green Mountain Power that the distribution lines at Thompson’s Point were robust enough to accommodate additional future charging stations. McCarren said she had since received confirmation and had provided a copy to Town Administrator Dean Bloch.
Frank Tenney questioned that while the license agreement is “between the Town of Charlotte and the landowner,” in this case Conard is leasing the land.
Krasnow said his understanding was Thompson’s Point leaseholders leased the land, but the building and all of its effects were owned and free to be sold on the free market.
Selectboard member Jim Faulkner asked if anyone knew what the pedestal for the charging plug would look like. Conard said she didn’t imagine it would be “very large or obtrusive.”
Faulkner said a plug containing 240 volts is “a dangerous item” and “that’s on town land out there, so we want to make sure it’s secure.”
Conard said she thought the plug would have “some type of a clamshell cover with a lock, for safety as well as for my protection.”
McCarren moved to approve the charging station, contingent on finalization of the pedestal and Faulkner’s inspection for safety.
The Selectboard unanimously voted to approve Conard’s request.
Mowing woes: The Selectboard fields complaints about new contractor
At the special Selectboard meeting on May 27, Town Administrator Dean Bloch said new contractor Dylan Guilmette had “gotten things under control” in the wake of complaints from community members of inadequate mowing and weed whacking in the town parks and fields.
“He did have a slow start, but he has been working at it, and I haven’t received any other complaints,” Bloch said.
Vanessa Knowles, who called in to participate in the discussion, said, “I was at the Town Beach today and I sent [Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow] some pictures, and around the tennis court, the playground and around the trees there was no weed whacking at all.”
Knowles described the weeds as “very long.” She said she sent Krasnow photos of “all three fields,” none of which had been weed whacked.
Ferry Boat Trail was “only half done,” she reported. “And the other half is probably about two feet high and was never done.”
The trail across the street had not been mowed yet, Knowles continued.
“And I could continue.”
Krasnow encouraged Knowles to contact Bloch with any complaints.
“The Select board can’t take action on behalf of the town outside of a public meeting, but Dean is authorized to make managerial decisions in between open meetings,” Krasnow said.
Tenney said he had also observed “things that weren’t done, things in the ball field, there was a lot of trimming that wasn’t done, there was some leaves in the park that weren’t picked up.”
He said while the rain likely made mowing more difficult, he thought some things “could have been done better.”
Charlotte Park Oversight Committee Co-Chair Susan Smith agreed.
“It was wet in the beginning and Dylan was new to the town, so we gave him a lot of leeway,” Smith said. “But it’s been dry for quite a while now, and the mowing has not been caught up at the park, the weed whacking has not been done and I’m wondering what kind of capacity Dylan has to do this job. Does he work alone? Does he have enough time to put on the job?”
Bloch told Smith that “this is actually the first I’ve heard that you’re dissatisfied, so I’m surprised you haven’t raised this to me in the past. I’d be happy to work with Dylan, and I hope with you, to rectify any problems.”
Smith said she thought Dylan was “a sincere person,” but “I just wonder if he has enough capability in his company to do this work.”
Bloch said in his experience “it takes about a year to iron out the kinks” with a new contractor.
“We’ll give him a few months and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll move on,” he said.
Town applies for Village Center Designation
At the special Selectboard meeting on May 27, Town Administrator Dean Bloch updated the board on the town’s application for a Village Center Designation.
Bloch said the application is submitted through the Agency of Commerce and Community Development which offers “various programs for different sized communities and neighborhoods.”
A brochure with information about the program is available on the town’s website, Bloch said. He noted Mike Russell and Mike Walker were instrumental in helping with the application process.
“It’s important to understand this (Village Center Designation) is not a change in any local regulation,” Russell said. “It’s not a zoning change, it’s a state designation that provides benefits both to property owners who have structures within areas that are designated as Village Centers as well as town entities that apply for grant money.”
Russell said to obtain a Village Center Designation a town has to demonstrate it has “a confirmed planning process and that our land use regulations are deemed consistent with the level of regulation that the state agency feels is necessary.”
“It’s kind of a no brainer for the town, there’s really no downside to it,” he said.
Russell said one of the reasons they “made a push to do this now” is that the Charlotte Grange Hall on Spear Street in East Charlotte “is an example of a building that will benefit greatly from this designation, because it will be eligible for tax credits for code compliance façade restoration and other grant monies.”
Mike Walker confirmed they are “in the process of restoring the Grange Hall and available grant funding is going to end up paying for all of that work.”
Walker said they have met with the Preservation Trust of Vermont and with the Dept. of Historic Conservation about grants, both general and specific.
“The feedback we received was the town was leaving money on the table by not having this Village Center Designation,” Walker said. “That’s why I started inquiring about it.”
Principles for designating a village center include that it must be anchored “by an existing use consistent with purposes of the Village Center designation,” Walker said. He said Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church has both a civic and religious use, which is one of the uses “encouraged to be located and nurtured within a Village district.”
Steve Denton’s commercial contractor’s yard and farm operation was “another example of the use that’s encouraged and is intended to be supported by a Village Center designation,” he said.
Walker said it might “seem odd” that the entire intersection of Charlotte Hinesburg Road and Spear Street is included within the designated area, “given that the northwest corner of the intersection is preserved open space in agreement” between the developer and the Town of Charlotte.
“We’ve been assured that it is part of the underlying designating criteria that the entire intersection be included, whether the properties in the intersection can benefit from the designation,” Walker said.
“As a citizen I wanted to support the effort,” Bill Regan said. “I think it makes sense for the town, and then if I put my Trails Committee chair hat on, I think I’d back it for that reason too, in case any of that grant money would become available that might benefit the trail project.”
Selectboard Member Lewis Mudge asked if the Village Center designation could be used “to tackle the speed limit in East Charlotte.” Walker said no.
“It’s not regulatory in any way,” he said.
Bloch said if the Selectboard motioned to approve the resolution and to submit the application “I’ll place this in the Town Clerk’s office for your signatures.”
Faulkner made the motion and Krasnow seconded, with the board unanimously voting to approve.
Selectboard amends rules of procedure
The Selectboard discussed amendments to its rules of procedure at a special meeting on May 27. The rules were revised in response to community concerns raised last year about conflict-of-interest issues related to Selectboard members serving on other town boards.
The amended rules would require Selectboard members not to serve on other boards, while newly elected members would be asked to relinquish any other seats they held —with a few exceptions.
“There’s two committees that require by statute Selectboard member participation,” Selectboard Member Lewis Mudge said. “So, I’ve tweaked the language to reflect this [rule] is for standing boards.”
Charlotte Fire and Rescue Services (CFRS) was one such committee, Mudge said.
Vice Chair Frank Tenney asked how someone running for a seat on the Selectboard who also held a seat on another board would be informed that “they have to get off the other board.”
“Either they should know that or maybe when somebody puts their hands up to run for Selectboard, (Town Administrator) Dean (Bloch) says, “OK, but if you get elected, you’re going to have to give up this,” Selectboard member Louise McCarren said.
Tenney said he just didn’t know “what the process would be.”
“If someone wants to run for the Selectboard, we can pass them out our rules of policy and procedures and say, just an FYI, this is what the policy and procedures are for the Selectboard,” Selectboard member Jim Faulkner said.
“You know my feeling about this, this was just brought up to get me off the zoning board,” Tenney said of the new rule.
Tenney previously served on the Selectboard and the Zoning Board of Adjustment simultaneously until questions arose last year about potential conflicts of interest in relation to a zoning application filed by Carrie Spear. (Tenney’s brother is Spear’s neighbor.) Tenney stepped down from the ZBA in April.
“I don’t want to let that hang Frank, that’s not the case,” Mudge said. “I have had numerous people tell me both in running and in being on the Selectboard that they would like to see less changing of the hats. I won’t lie and say your name was never mentioned, but the intention was not simply to get you off the ZBA.”
“Whether the intent was there or not, that is what happened,” Tenney said.
“The Selectboard, based on a lot of feedback from last year, was presented with two options: either respond to the feedback or not respond to it,” Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow said. “And this is the way the Selectboard has been thoughtfully responding to the feedback it received from the town over the last three months.”
Krasnow said, while Frank was asked to choose on which board he wanted to remain “once this policy was passed—which it hasn’t been yet,” that everyone serving on the Selectboard in the future “will be asked to make the same decision.”
“I was asked [to leave the ZBA] before this was even brought up,” Tenney said.
“I have something to say,” McCarren said. “I have been on many, many boards. And I will say that Frank Tenney is a major contributor to this board, and I am so humbled by being able to work with him. He’s smart, he’s hardworking, he’s knowledgeable and he’s connected. Just one person here saying how much I value what he has done.”
McCarren said Tenney should “never” feel the new rules of procedure are “personalized” to him.
“This is just what we had to do,” McCarren said. “And just to repeat, I have been on many, many boards and you’re the best.”
Krasnow said he would add that “Frank has been an invaluable member of the zoning board for many years, and his leadership on that board was very valuable for everyone in town. His knowledge of the zoning regulations is pretty much unmatched, and his leadership was very strong on that board.”
Krasnow described Tenney’s departure from the ZBA as “a loss to the town,” but said it was a decision the Selectboard was “asked by its residents to make.”
“I’m sorry Matt, I just don’t agree,” Tenney said.
Faulkner asked if it was the board’s opinion that CFRS “should not be on this list that we have for this new rule. I just want to make sure that everybody understands that we do have a Selectboard member on that board.”
“I’m still on the ropes,” Mudge said. “If you want to send it to the lawyer, I’m fine to do that. By no means do we have to vote on this now-now.”
“I’m OK either way,” Krasnow said. “I think if we leave it off and it becomes an issue, we can always add it, and I’m OK with adding it now, as well.”
“I would like to resolve this tonight,” McCarren said.
“I’m not going to try to wordsmith it now, but I can add it,” Bloch said. “It’s not a town board but it does receive town funding, so I can make that change with any comments for you and then have it available for signature.”
McCarren motioned to adopt the amendment to the Selectboard rules of procedure.
“All in favor, say ‘Aye’,” Krasnow said.
“You know I’m opposed,” Tenney said.
“Yep,” Krasnow said. “Four to one.”