By Lani Duke
Updated town plan addresses land use issues
PAWLET—Pawlet’s Select Board will consider readopting a reworked town plan in February 2016, with minor modifications to the plan currently in place, adopted Nov. 16, 2010. Among other inclusions, the plan contains a projection on the future of agriculture in the town, composed by the town’s Agriculture Working Group (comprised of Fred Stone, Philip Ackerman-Leist, Timothy Hughes-Muse, Donald Campbell, and John Malcom).
Among its other conclusions, it notes: “The decline in the number of dairy farms has freed up good land for other agriculture ventures. Much of the prime cropland has been protected from development by inclusion in the Mettowee Valley Conservation Project.” The plan’s goals include encouraging public commitment to support diverse farming operations, recognizing and respecting differing needs of farmers and non-farmers, and protecting and conserving ag lands and soils with an eye to long-term agricultural viability.
Solar siting is reserved for the town’s designated industrial zones.
The reworked plan proposes dividing Pawlet’s single industrial district into two types: heavy and light, considering existing uses and issues. Also in the plan is development of affordable housing in the West Pawlet Village Center, to take advantage of its potential for housing stock and underutilized wastewater treatment facility.
According to a 2014 “walk audit,” the intersection of Route 30, Route 133, and School Street is unsafe, primarily because of high driver speeds and lack of pedestrian infrastructure. The plan calls for several improvements to that spot.
Lying entirely within the Mettawee River watershed, Pawlet is “in a favorable position to realize the advantages of a comprehensive, effective system of storm water management that combines Low Impact Development (LID) and Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI),” the plan notes. The town completed a stormwater master plan in 2015, finding 12 viable implementation projects, and intends to complete those identified. It will maintain an inventory of culverts and stormdrains, updating as needed.
Although much of Pawlet receives electricity from Green Mountain Power, a number of families live completely off the grid, relying on solar power for much of their needs. Emergency Management is led by a volunteer staff consisting of emergency management director, coordinator, and public information officer. Fire protection is in the hands of two volunteer fire departments, based in West Pawlet and Pawlet Village, with coordination via the Enhanced 911 system. Dispatch for both departments and the local EMS is from the Washington County, N.Y., Department of Public Safety. Two town constables and the Vermont State Police provide local law enforcement, dispatched through the 911 system.
To see the entire draft plan, access https://pawlet.vt.gov/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/Draft-Pawlet-Town-Plan-for-PC-hearing.pdf.
Proposed noise control ordinance stifled
CASTLETON—Firing up a chain saw wouldn’t be necessary, Castleton Selectman John Hale found in planning for the Dec. 28 meeting. He had intended to demonstrate the efficacy of using decibel ratings as the Board considered a proposed noise control ordinance. He ended up using an iPad demonstration of decibel levels after neither the Board nor the 16 attendees wanted to hear the real thing, and resident Graham Trudo pointed out that chain saws would be exempt from the ordinance anyway under the agricultural use classification. Many noise issues are already covered under existing ordinances, Board chair Joe Bruno observed, noting that animal control ordinances cover barking dogs and zoning ones cover construction noise. Other comments on the proposed ordinance considered it unrealistic for a town in rural Vermont. Portions that limit noise times and decibels limit livelihoods, said Castleton resident Allison Harvey. Castleton’s Select Board considered a noise ordinance change in the late 1980s, but it met with widespread opposition, according to Charles Brown, a former board chairman.
Holiday cup runneth over
TINMOUTH—Tinmouth area folks pitched in to give some local folks a more sumptuous holiday than any had foreseen. Food, money, toys and games poured in, more than met the needs of a list that grew from five families to 22. Town clerk Gail Fallar commended the donors, saying, “When a dozen or so folks met to discus the project, not one said it couldn’t be done, they all said how do we do this.” There was enough left over to re-stock the town office food shelf.