Local News

Rochester voters to consider climate change

Staff report

Voters in Rochester are being asked to approve a declaration that would require town officials to consider climate change when making decisions.

The declaration, which will be presented to voters at Town Meeting on Monday, March 2, says climate change should be an “integral” part of town planning, policy and decision making.

“Global climate is changing at an unprecedented rate due to human activities, mass extinction, and threatening human activities world wide,” according to the declaration.

A petition for the declaration was submitted by some residents of town and drafted by resident Elizabeth Shackelford.

She said the Select Board was considering the economy regarding the project but not the environment.

“As it turns out, our town plan and other policies consider environment broadly in a number of ways, but we have no specific provisions for considering environmental and climate impact specifically as a lens in our decision-making,” Shackelford said. “So in the end, our hope is that the declaration raises awareness and leads to changes in behavior, both in our town leadership and our community more broadly.

The declaration doesn’t require the board to take any immediate actions.

“It’s a small gesture, really just a start, and honestly some people were disappointed it didn’t go further,” Shackleford said. “But my response is, we started small, but we started somewhere.”

Rochester isn’t the only town to consider climate change. Close to 1,400 local governments in 27 countries have declared climate change emergencies, according to Climate Mobilization, a nonprofit that advocates for climate change action.

The Burlington City Council voted in September to declare a climate emergency in the city.  One part of Burlington’s resolution encourages all city departments to take action to reach a net zero goal by 2030.

While the resolution in Burlington is specific, Rochester Select Board chair Doon Hinderyckx wondered if the language presented to Rochester voters was too unclear.

“All the town’s decisions would be taking that into consideration,” Hinderyckx said. “I think that’s a little too vague. I’m hoping that it is clarified a little bit from the floor at Town Meeting.”

Rochester resident Nancy Sanz, who was part of creating the declaration, said the group wanted to avoid opposition.

“It’s fairly low-level but it’s our step one to bring awareness to the issue of climate change,” she said.

Voters will meet Monday, March 2 at 7 p.m. at the Rochester School auditorium.

The proposed budget to be raised by taxes in Rocheseter is $780,550, up about 4% from the previous year. Voters will also elect a new Select Board member for a three-year term as Tom Schnabel’s seat is up.

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