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Town junks trash ordinance, protects farmland

VERNON—Voters reconvened at Vernon Elementary School on March 8 to act on the agenda items they didn’t get to during the first night of Town Meeting on March 6.

Townspeople elected Julie Ball to the Vernon Free Library Board of Trustees. Ball was appointed by the Selectboard partway through the three-year term. This election allows her to finish the unexpired term, which ends next March.

Voters had four choices for the three-year Trustee seat. Newcomer Melissa Ferris beat incumbent Ruth Kibbee and residents Andrew Gantt and Ellen Hardy. Ferris has served on the Recreation Department and Cemetery Committees and ran unsuccessfully for Town Clerk last year.

After lengthy debate — and an amendment attributed to an accounting error — voters approved Article 11, which authorized appropriating $198,591 to the Capital Plan. $81,588 of that will come from taxes.

The owners of two properties sought money from the town’s Farmland Protection Fund to help secure development rights on their agricultural land. After some discussion on each article — numbers 24 and 25 — voters passed both.

Jeffrey and Kelli Dunklee will get $54,000 from the fund to permanently conserve approximately 73 acres on Pond Road, provided they receive at least $100,000 from the Vermont Land Trust.

Jean Carr will receive $45,300, plus expenses not to exceed $6,000, from the fund, to buy the development rights to permanently conserve about 25 acres at 406 Pond Road.

Finally, voters approved scrapping the town’s junk ordinance.

In an attempt to respond to complaints about trash and numerous unused vehicles on residents’ properties, the Selectboard passed a junk ordinance in December 2016 that went into effect on Feb. 3. Complaints about the new ordinance prompted the Board to put it on the agenda for Town Meeting 2017.

At Town Meeting, some residents — including two outgoing Selectboard members, Christiane Howe and Emily Vergobbe — portrayed the ordinance as unfair and too restrictive.

Selectboard member Steve Skibniowsky offered an explanation in an effort to dispel some residents’ concerns. He said cars “actively for sale” and farm and utility vehicles are exempt from the ordinance, which sets a limit of two “junk vehicles” on one piece of property.

The town “will not actively seek to ticket landowners,” but will rely on the ordinance “in the event that there’s a complaint, a risk to the environment or individuals,” he said.

Although Skibniowsky pointed out the ordinance “will also help to protect property values,” voters weren’t convinced.

The motion failed, and the junk ordinance was rescinded.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #399 (Wednesday, March 15, 2017).

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