By Lani Duke
Don’t toss out the table phones yet
MIDDLETOWN SPRINGS—The cell tower on McNamara Road in Middletown Springs is still on hold despite receiving its certificate of public good in April 2011. AT&T Regional Vice President Owen Smith recently claimed the company intends to turn the tower on in 2017. In the meantime, concerned citizens must be content with Smith’s statement that his company had intended to turn the tower on soon at the time it was constructed, but that the engineering plan changed. According to a report from the Rutland Regional Planning Commission, the tower is the only one in the county listed as inactive, even though Middletown Springs, Tinmouth, and Pawlet have an “unmet need” for cell coverage. If an emergency arises, these three towns may be unable to call for assistance. There may be no way to call for an ambulance, report a power outage, or ask family to truck in firewood.
Charging station unused
FAIR HAVEN—The town of Fair Haven joined the electric vehicle charging network August 7, when its dual-port charging station “went live.” But being live and listed on the Green Mountain Power website was apparently not sufficient public notice to bring any usage. The level 2 charging station, in the mid-range for charging times and utilizing 240-volt power, has not received a single plug-in, Town Manager Herb Durfee told the Select Board when it met Dec. 8. The nearest other electric vehicle charging stations are in Castleton and Poultney. Driving west, it appears the nearest ones may be in Comstock, Glens Falls, Queensbury, and Lake George in New York.
CASTLETON—The Castleton Select Board may update the town’s noise ordinance, last updated in 2009. Selectman John Hale presented a draft for a proposed update at the Board’s Dec. 14 meeting. Chairman Joe Bruno said he would not support the ordinance as written; selectman Richard Combs questioned the outlined decibel levels and the firearms portion. Hale plans a chainsaw demo the next time the board meets.
Castleton’s planning commission has proposed creating a new residential/commercial 2-acre designation on Route 30. It currently is zoned residential-2 acres. The change is intended to make usage less restricted and will allow commercial and compatible development.
According to Bruno, the town has been considering rezoning this area for more than a decade; in 2002, it was on the table to become “village commercial.” The freshly proposed changes are intended to keep a “residential” feeling but also allow commercial development that was precluded by what is now the current zoning, according to Rutland Regional Planning Commission executive director Ed Bove. Changing the zoning would, he believes, “strike the balance for growth.”
If the Select Board formally considers the proposal, the monstrous dilemma of small town living rears its head. Who can vote on the zoning change without conflict of interest? Not Bruno. He owns property that would be affected by the zoning change. Ditto for Selectman Robert Spaulding. Probably fellow Selectman John Hale should recuse himself too. Hale has attended numerous planning commission meetings and commented on the project. Hale disbelieves that the proposed changes are minor. The proposed zoning would allow six uses that are currently prohibited.
Castleton’s town government is looking for individuals who desire to be more involved in helping the community run more smoothly. Needed are applicants for the Development Review Board (meets twice a month), Planning Commission (twice a month), and Recreation Commission. Applicants must submit a letter of intent by mail or hand delivery to the Castleton town manager’s office.
PAWLET—Clean Energy Design Group, Inc., presented a letter of intent for a solar project at the Pawlet landfill during the Select Board’s December 8 meeting. The town attorney, John Thrasher, has yet to review the document. Since the solar project was proposed, details have been forced to change. Green Mountain Power no longer accepts net-metering projects, a factor that necessitates a “feed-in tariff,” with the utility buying all the power produced.
Pawlet zoning is also under revision. “Organized Camps” will no longer be part of Ag and Rural Residential Zoning. In the future, new camps will be required to secure wastewater permits and meet setback requirements.
Under consideration is a provision for an ag processing plant, micro-brewery, and micro-distillery under the “Village Commercial” classification. Also allowed without permit are sole proprietorships and businesses with fewer than two employees.
Pawlet’s Planning Commission has set a public hearing for Dec. 28 at 7:30 p.m. to gather public opinion on re-adopting the town plan, last adopted on Nov. 16, 2010. The Select Board is considering re-adopting the plan as proposed in February 2016.