By Mike Walker and Sharon Mount
Grange thanks community for online auction success
To the Editor:
The Charlotte Grange says a loud and ringing “Thank You” to the whole Charlotte community. Over one hundred townsfolk donated to our online auction, generating hundreds of generous bids and counterbids during the course of the week. As well as being a fun and exciting few days, we raised important funds that will let us keep the lights on at the Grange Hall in East Charlotte and continue to plan for our future work.
This year’s Grange programs are energized and going strong—we’ve already held a successful clothing drive for low-income families and started a conversation with Charlotte farmers, and plans are well in hand for our summer concert series “Grange on the Green.”
This work is all driven by our enthusiastic and dedicated volunteer members, and it is both heartening and inspiring for us to see so much support and messages of encouragement from the wider community.
Thank you again on behalf of all of the members of the Grange, and we hope to see many of you as our programs take shape through the year.
Who actually determines the future of our town?
My husband and I have lived in Charlotte for over 26 years. Six of our seven children attended Charlotte Central School. We truly love this town. Honestly, every day we feel grateful that we live here.
Between full-time jobs in health care and a big family, we have not been ideal citizens. Of course, we vote and try to support our community, but we have fallen short of volunteering for the commissions and boards which hold such power in deciding the future of our town.
These boards/commissions, specifically, the new development review board and the planning commission, are composed of volunteers who give their time to the evaluation and approval of new building and development in Charlotte. Charlotters do not elect these folks. Members of the planning commission and development review board are appointed by the selectboard.
The selectboard members, also volunteers but democratically elected, represent us. If we are displeased with their actions, we have the power to vote them out in the next election. This is not the case with the appointed planning commission and development review board members. We cannot vote them out should they be driven by personal motives and make decisions that are out of line with the desires of the majority of Charlotters.
So how does a Charlotte citizen have a voice in determining the future of our town? The answer: The Charlotte Town Plan which was voted into existence by Charlotte citizens. The entire town plan is available at the town web site (charlottevt.org), however, here are a few selected quotes from that document which was revised in 2019:
The Charlotte Town Plan expresses our vision for the future of Charlotte. In its vision for the future, the Charlotte Town Plan builds on the town’s most valuable characteristics — its rural landscape, healthy environment, small-town character, history, and a long tradition of active participation by citizen volunteers in local government and community activities.
To balance property owner rights to reasonably use their land in keeping with overall public health, safety, welfare and the goals of this town plan.
To reinforce historic settlement patterns by focusing growth in our hamlets, and east and west villages, while conserving our areas of high public value.
To maintain and enhance the integrity and continued viability of natural and cultural features with high public value, including land and active agricultural use, prime and statewide agricultural soils; steep slopes; flood hazard areas, surface and groundwater resources; shoreland buffers; special natural areas, wildlife habitats, water supply source protection areas, and other ecologically important natural areas; scenic views and vistas; historic districts, sites and structures; and conserved land;
Densities for proposed development will be reviewed with consideration of existing settlement patterns, distance to and availability of town services, physical capability of the land for development, the presence of significant areas of high public value, the size of the parcel, and the need for affordable housing.
The planning commission and development review board appointees have a difficult balancing act. Decisions regarding development and whether to allow waivers that enable the bypass of land use regulations and the goals of the Charlotte Town Plan are complex and complicated. Obviously, landowners have rights. However, landowners who own and purchase property in our town know that there is a Charlotte Town Plan and Land Use Regulations. Development that does not abide by goals set forth in the town plan should be denied. Waivers to the Land Use Regulations should require very careful consideration before being approved.
The truth of the matter is that the future of our town is in the hands of approximately a dozen volunteers on the planning commission and development review board who are not elected by us. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that our elected selectboard members take responsibility for the folks they appoint and provide oversight of the decisions made by these boards. The selectboard must not only provide guidance, but also intervention, should the planning commission and development review board make decisions that deviate from the Charlotte Town Plan.
Short of being appointed to boards/commissions, one avenue Charlotte citizens do have to influence the future of our town is to be vocal in expressing our support for the Charlotte Town Plan in meetings, in newspapers, in Front Porch Forum posts. Our elected officials and their appointees need to hear our strong support for our Charlotte Town Plan.
All Charlotters, including most importantly, the municipal bodies must be active in their adherence and support for the democratically approved Charlotte Town Plan. The Charlotte Town Plan is the vision for the future voted upon by Charlotte citizens and the reason many of us choose to live in this beautiful town.