Letters to the Editor: Sept. 21

To the Editor:

Congratulations! The Charlotte News helped Age Well provide 170 Meals on Wheels. We appreciate this support.

Because of the readers’ generosity, our clients can rely on the daily nutritious meal, volunteer visit and daily safety check. Age Well is grateful to everyone who donated to support Meals on Wheels in Charlotte. Last year, Age Well served 187 Charlotte residents.

This support comes at a time when Age Well is facing unprecedented numbers of aging Vermonters needing meal deliveries and the support that accompanies Meals on Wheels. Thank you for helping us to continue to reach thousands in need, avoid waitlists and continue to deliver a vital lifeline to those most at risk.

Meals on Wheels can serve one person for an entire year for about the same cost as one day in a hospital or 10 days in a nursing home. Meals on Wheels not only helps our aging neighbors thrive, but also relies on collaboration from our community partners, volunteers and businesses to meet the ever-growing need, ensuring that no older Vermonter is left behind.

To learn more about how Age Well supports older Vermonters, we invite you to visit agewellvt.org or call the helpline at 800-642-5119.
Tracey Shamberger

(Tracey Shamberger is the director of business development and communications at Age Well.)

Charlotte needs town government to take town planning seriously

To the Editor:

Zoning regulations are an important part of town planning. They are indispensable to Charlotte’s ongoing efforts to balance growth and development with the preservation of its natural beauty, agricultural heritage, and unique sense of community. Each zoning district comes with specific bylaws in order to protect the character of the area and its natural resources. But what happens if residents aren’t happy when they are not allowed to do as they please?

A case in point is a controversial camp replacement application on Thompson’s Point this year.

The applicants proposed to replace their old camp with a new structure more than twice its original size and in a new footprint. The location was problematic, consisting of a steep hill covered with old growth trees. All land on Thompson’s Point is owned by the town and leased to the camp holders.

Without consideration of the ecological damage this construction would cause, the applicants had elaborate plans drawn up, managed to get approval to cut a large number of trees and obtained a state permit for shoreland protection. However, their application was denied by the development review board due to non-compliance with several Charlotte land-use regulations.

Undeterred, they hired a lawyer and appealed to the Environmental Division of the Vermont Supreme Court. Although both the development review board and the Charlotte Conservation Commission had requested from the selectboard to be included in the deliberations and had been told that they would be, they were ignored entirely.

Instead, the applicants’ lawyer and the town attorney hashed out a deal that would give full approval for the reconstruction of the camp. Neither the development review board nor the conservation commission were ever notified before this so-called stipulated judgment order was presented to the selectboard, who in executive session decided to accept it as is. The entire process had been kept completely obscured from interested parties.

After repeated protests by the conservation commission and development review board, the selectboard opted to have another hearing on the issue for a possible reconsideration. A lengthy and contentious meeting ensued. A development review board member took issue with the way the selectboard had conducted the appeals process by not allowing development review board representation. Members of the conservation commission argued their well-researched concerns regarding development on the steep and fragile hillside known as limestone bluff cedar pine forest, which would likely become destabilized from the excessive tree removal and violate a number of land-use regulations, in full support of the development review board’s application denial.

In the end, the selectboard voted 3-2 to not reconsider its decision to accept the stipulated judgment order, which will now allow the applicants to go ahead with their camp reconstruction without any changes if the environmental court approves it.

Unfortunately, the selectboard’s decision to overrule indisputable land-use regulations sets a bad precedent. We don’t yet know what ramifications that decision will have for our town in the future and that should concern us all. Charlotters need a town government that takes town planning seriously and values and supports the contributions of its volunteer boards.
Claudia Mucklow

(Claudia Mucklow is a member of the Charlotte Conservation Commission.)

Trapping threatens ecosystem health and biodiversity

To the Editor:

Trappers use a lot of excuses to justify their recreational hobby, but the reality is that trapping not only presents serious animal welfare concerns, it is also a threat to ecosystem health and biodiversity.

The science is clear: predator species like bobcats, fisher and coyote provide immeasurable benefits to ecosystem health, yet trappers are allowed to trap unlimited numbers of animals during the season. One year, just one trapper killed ten fisher, likely decimating the local population. Just last year, one trapper killed five bobcats and another trapper killed 44 coyotes (that we know of). Unlike other states, including New Hampshire, that don’t allow the killing of bobcats at all, Vermont has no bag limits on the number of animals a trapper may kill. This presents a threat to local populations, as well as ecosystem health. And it’s not just wild animals that are in danger. Last year alone, twelve domestic dogs were “reported” trapped. Unlike recent pro-trapping commentaries, this is not merely anecdotal information.

A seasoned furbearer biologist at the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has admitted in department emails obtained through a public records request that trapping is not needed in Vermont to manage for populations or to reduce spread of disease (tinyurl.com/3f89tp8j). Trapping is a recreational hobby enjoyed by about 800 licensed trappers. Back in the day, trappers pilfered the pelts of our cherished bobcats, otters and other iconic species and sold them to Russia and China.

The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation — that Vermont Fish & Wildlife purportedly adheres to — clearly states that there should be no market in commerce in wildlife, yet their policies allow for it. It’s one of the many contradictions held by Fish and Wildlife.

Another excuse used by trappers is that trapping is needed to manage so-called “nuisance” animals, but we often forget why wildlife becomes a problem in the first place. Whether it’s unsecured garbage, pet food, chickens allowed to free range or other factors, it is important that humans take a look inward to see how we are contributing to the problem.

That said, current trapping legislation, bills H.191 and S.111, would still allow for the trapping of animals causing damage to property, as well as dangers to public health and safety. This commonsense piece of legislation would combat the senseless killing of otters, bobcats, beavers and other wildlife merely for recreation and allow trapping under certain conditions.

Massachusetts and Colorado have similar laws that have been a huge success for wildlife, the public and our pets. No more leghold and body-crushing kill traps set on public lands haphazardly injuring, maiming and killing both targeted and non-targeting species like dogs, red-tailed hawks, owls and endangered species. This legislation would target trapping to address only those animals that are causing problems for humans.

Vermont needs beavers, foxes and other animals labeled “furbearer” species for the ecosystem services they provide. We are in the throes of climate change and science informs us that beavers help reduce flooding, among many other benefits they offer to humans. Tick-borne illnesses are on the rise and according to the Cary Institute, red foxes are the main predator of mice that transmit Lyme to ticks.

The tradition of domination over wildlife, who are merely viewed as lifeless “resources” for the “harvesting,” is no longer viable or acceptable to many. No animal should have to chew through their mangled paw to free themselves from a leghold trap to satisfy someone’s recreational hobby. When we know better, we must do better.
Brenna Galdenzi

(Brenna Galdenzi is president of Protect Our Wildlife.)

Charlotte residents deserve truthfulness from elected officials

To the Editor:

A disturbing thing happened at the selectboard meeting last Monday. There was public discussion about the recent decision by the board to approve the application from a couple on Thompson’s Point to tear down the existing camp, move the footprint and build a structure twice the size of the original plus cut down 16 trees some 100 years old.

When the property owners appealed the development review board’s original denial to the environmental court, they also asked their lawyer to seek a settlement with the town. The selectboard authorized the town’s attorney to negotiate an agreement with the home owner’s lawyer. Previously in May, the selectboard promised a member of the development review board and the Charlotte Conservation Commission that they could be present and could participate.

What happened was that the two lawyers met in private, and the town lawyer agreed the project could be approved as presented and granted them their application despite the fact that the conservation committee recommended against it and our development review board voted to deny the same project application.

The town’s lawyer refused to explain his rationale for the proposed settlement beyond a reference to the high cost to litigate. When the selectboard met to act on this recommendation they went into executive session to hide their deliberations from the public. So, we still don’t know why they made this precedent-creating decision overturning the work of the development review board and the conservation commission.

At Monday’s meeting the selectboard had the opportunity to reopen their decision to accept the settlement, thereby keeping their promise to the public and provide the development review board a chance to have input into the process. Instead, they voted to break their promise. The town’s lawyer, rather than advise the board to keep their promise, advised them to do the opposite. This represents a lack of integrity by the majority of the selectboard (Kelly Devine and Lewis Mudge excluded) and the town attorney, David Rughe.

The citizens of Charlotte deserve better. We deserve truthfulness from our elected officials and their counsel.
Ruth E. Uphold