Letters to the editor

Bring your board, enthusiasm to backgammon at senior center

To the Editor:

My name is Jonathan Hart and I’m a long-time backgammon player. I grew up playing the game with my dad.

When I became a young father, I played with local friends and neighbors every Friday night for about 10 years. My growing daughter loved the clack-clack sounds of checkers being moved around a homemade wooden board as she fell asleep.

I’m always fascinated by the complexities of the game. Like many board games, it’s easy to learn and challenging to master.

Backgammon is a tactical table game with a 5,000-year history. It involves a combination of strategy and luck (from rolling dice). While the dice may determine the outcome of a single game, the better player will accumulate more wins over a series of many games. With each roll of the dice, players must choose from numerous options for moving their checkers and anticipate possible counter-moves by the opponent. The optional use of a doubling cube allows players to raise the stakes during the game.

A year ago, I started our backgammon league at the Charlotte Senior Center thanks to the invitation of director Lori York. I was eager to renew my play and learn new strategies.

Thirty-four people have signed up to play, so we will be organizing an in-house tournament later this fall or early winter. Weekly games include shared tips and round-robin friendly play. We welcome players at all levels from beginner to advanced for weekly games. Come on by and make some new friends.

If you are interested in joining our fun league, please contact me.

During the summer we play Tuesdays, 6-8:30 p.m. During the fall and winter, in addition to games on Tuesdays, there are games Saturdays, 2-4:30 p.m.

Bring your board and stop by.

Jonathan Hart

Time for Charlotte to consider short-term rental ordinance

To the Editor:

Sometimes you are not aware of a trend that is taking place until it affects you. This is the case for me and my neighbors on Nature’s Way.

We have recently learned that one of the houses in our neighborhood has become exclusively an Airbnb rental property. There is no permanent resident at the address. The property was bought by an out-of-state entity for the purpose of creating a short-term rental property in a desirable area. In effect, it has become a commercial enterprise in a residential neighborhood.

Apparently, this is not the only case of its type in our town, but it is very disconcerting to those of us who are permanent residents. According to the town zoning administrator, Aaron Brown, there are around 100 Airbnbs in Charlotte. It is not known how many are absentee-landlord homes for rent versus auxiliary housing units for rent on an owner-occupied property or a few bedrooms for rent in an owner-occupied house.

Why would this matter to the residents of Charlotte? There are a number of impacts that should be considered for housing exclusively for short-term rental:

  • Disruption of the neighborhood as a result of strangers’ activities inconsistent with neighborhood norms;
  • Increased traffic on private roads and driveways as well as parking;
  • Potential diminishing of property values as a result of a commercial enterprise in a residential area;
  • Decrease in the housing stock available to people who would live in town and contribute to our community.

Properties rented with a long-term lease are different because they contribute much-needed housing in this time of short supply. However, short-term rental properties are characterized by continuously changing occupants who are unfamiliar with the neighborhood and the understandings we neighbors have concerning behavior, traffic, road maintenance and property boundaries.

It may be time for the planning commission and the selectboard to consider enacting an ordinance like the one recently passed in Burlington, i.e., to restrict short-term rentals in residential zoned properties in Charlotte to owner-occupied premises. If a homeowner wishes to offer a few rooms in their home or offer an adjacent building, aka an auxiliary housing unit, on their property for short-term rental, or even their entire house while they are on vacation, that would be allowed. If the primary residence of the homeowner is not on the property in question, short-term rentals would not be allowed. Exceptions can be made for seasonal properties like those on Thompson’s Point.

Charlotte has a special quality that we residents are lucky to enjoy. Creation of commercial properties in residential neighborhoods will impact this quality of life negatively and alter the essential character of Charlotte. I would welcome a discussion in Front Porch Forum and in our local newspapers to learn what others think of this situation.

Mike Yantachka

(Mike Yantachka is a former state representative from Charlotte and is a regular volunteer for The Charlotte News as part of the team that proofreads the newspaper.)

State should make online tax filing easier, free for citizens

To the Editor:

Government should always be looking for ways to make people’s lives easier. Whether it’s responding to natural disasters like the recent flooding in Vermont, or investing in critical programs and services for low-income and working people.

One way we can save everyday people time and money is with the IRS’s new Direct File tax system. This will allow taxpayers to file taxes quickly and easily, online, free of charge. It means we wouldn’t have to rely on paid services like TurboTax and H&R Block, which charge people, on average, $250 to file their taxes each year, according to a 2019 ProPublica article.

But, even as the IRS is preparing to bring Direct File online for the 2024 tax season, there’s a catch.

The new system will only allow you to file your federal tax returns, unless states opt in. And, the deadline for states to do so is less than a month away, on Sept. 4. While I recognize the governor is doing a lot to help people recover from the floods, he can also do something to help Vermonters save hundreds of dollars by opting in.

Send a message to opt your state in to the new IRS Direct File system before it’s too late.

An estimated 70 percent of U.S. taxpayers are eligible to use free tax prep software. However, through tricks and traps set by the tax prep industry, only roughly 2 percent use the free options.

But the tax prep industry is doing more than fooling us into using their paid services. Greedy corporations like H&R Block have also been illegally selling our private information to Google and Meta (the owner of Facebook and Instagram), according to the CNN Business headline: “Tax prep companies shared private taxpayer data with Google and Meta for years, congressional probe finds.”

But, thanks to investments made by Democrats in Congress in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, we will soon have a free government-sponsored online system that competes with paid corporate options.

Take action today and urge to opt in to the new IRS Direct File system to save taxpayers time and money.

When Americans are provided with a free, easy-to-use federal tax filing system, shouldn’t Vermonters have the same opportunity to save hundreds of dollars in fees that are currently going to corporations and Wall Street investors?

Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman