I’m not going to get involved in the town-manager-versus-town-administrator debate. I mean, I’m already involved to the extent that, should it get to this point, I will cheerfully and enthusiastically work on drafting a town charter bill and getting it through the legislative process. I respect that this issue is one that’s going to be left to the voters.
I like leaving the decisions in the hands of towns whenever possible — like, Dillon’s Rule gives the state the authority to ultimately decide on towns’ behalf. (Remember that? It’s my favorite rule other than: If you dirty the dish, you clean the dish, which applies both at home and in the State House.)
But if the voters in a town decide they want something, for the most part we really do make every attempt in the Government Operations and Military Affairs Committee to move it as far as we can.
The couple of town charter bills that weren’t unanimous came out of committee with votes along party lines. Those were a Burlington charter wanting non-citizens to vote and a Brattleboro charter allowing youth voters in local elections.
Speaking for myself, of course, I think that if the voters of a town want it, and it’s not against the law, then they should get it. In the case of the Charlotte town administrator, I’m confident that people will do their research and vote what they think is best.
Sometimes, things are a little more controversial …
Which brings me to the shooting range. Here’s where my unpopular opinion comes in. I know the selectboard has discussed creating a noise ordinance specific to that section of town. I believe this is known as “spot zoning,” and I do believe that in the past, the town has very carefully tried to avoid spot zoning. These things can go both ways, of course — if we create a noise ordinance that only applies to one part of town, then can we create, say, just for example, a food truck ordinance that only applies to one part of town to prohibit only certain establishments from having food trucks? I don’t love that slippery selective slope.
The planning commission works hard to ensure that our town’s future development is consistent and fair; the development review board works hard to make sure that the laws and land-use regulations as they apply them are consistent and fair. The shooting range has been through decades of time and expense defending their right to have that shooting range and keep it running; in 2018, the Vermont Supreme Court upheld their right to exist without applying Act 250 jurisdiction. People have been shooting at the range there for more than 70 years.
I sympathize with the people who are frustrated with the noise, and I agree with selectboard member Louise McCarren’s comment that all the neighbors need to get together and work it out as best they can. I also do believe that if you’re going to buy property near a shooting range, you know what to expect: shooting. (I used to live across the street from the shooting range in Lake Placid, so I know what I’m talking about here.)
I live next door to cows, and though they don’t always rank in the top 10 of smells and sometimes the midnight bellowing is unsettling, I’m used to them and have grown to love and appreciate them as part of my olfactory and aural landscape. I also knew they were here when I moved in, and accepted that it’s part of the deal.
These paragraphs can also apply to my thoughts on cannabis grow operations: smelly, not ideal for some people, but also totally not against the law and therefore, whether we like it or not, they’re allowed to exist. And the town isn’t allowed to specifically create land-use regulations that apply only to that one industry or operation.
Another hot topic that I shouldn’t weigh in on but am about to is short-term rentals. I’m always a little suspicious when people say that outsiders will disrupt the character of their neighborhood. What are the outsiders doing, holding a Satanic ritual that involves burning roadkill in the middle of the night without a burn permit?
Many towns are trying to institute rental registries in order to figure out how much available housing there is, and how much of that is being co-opted by short-term rental units. I don’t think this is the issue in Charlotte. I’m pretty sure the people who don’t want short-term rentals are concerned, not because they want more long-term renters to have access to Charlotte housing, but because they don’t want the bother that comes along with their neighbors renting out their homes. In towns with more density and cities, it makes complete sense to register and regulate short-term housing, especially when we’re in the midst of a housing crisis. Here, in my opinion, not so much.
I’d prefer you’re not mad at me, but if you are, I welcome your opinion. If you agree with me, or have a point I haven’t considered, I welcome your opinions, too. You can always contact me or 917-887-8231.