Royalton conducted town business in less than two hours Tuesday. The longest discussion by far was under Article VIII, “Shall the voters of Royalton oppose the NewVistas development?”
Town Meeting began with a Boy Scout color guard leading the pledge of allegiance. Peggy Ainsworth represented her husband, David, Orange Windsor I Representative, who was out sick, to say that David is serving on the Natural Resources Committee. The committee has focused on water quality and finding funding for water quality compliance, and Ainsworth is interested in finding ways to control NewVistas-type developments.
Delbert Thurston once again urged voters not to accept the report of the Town Officers because detailed listings of “who the money went to” aren’t printed in the Town Report. Selectboard Chair Larry Trottier explained that it isn’t economical to print a report of over 100 pages, and all that information is available on the website or at the town offices.
Article III and Article IV appropriations were approved with barely a murmur for a total of $301,758, even with a $7,250 increase for the fire district and a $5,695 increase for the rescue squad.
Corrine Ingraham came forward to explain that the $1,000 increase for the senior center was to cover the Meals on Wheels program, which serves more than 600 meals monthly.
Paul Brock asked why the policing contract with Sharon was not in the general fund, and the answer was that Sharon hadn’t decided to opt into that contract.
In discussion of the highway fund, Trottier explained that a surplus has been building in the highway equipment account in recent years. The surplus money can’t be transferred into another part of the town’s budget, Thus, for this year only, the highway budget has been reduced by $183,000. Trottier also spoke about the water trough in the intersection of Chelsea and Windsor Streets, which last year’s voters requested be fixed.
Trottier said the trough was found to be beyond repair, and replacement is estimated at $12,000. Furthermore, he said, the town is working on proposals to make the block accessible for the handicapped, which could affect the layout of the street. Thus, the water trough issue in on hold for now, he said.
Randy Leavitt opened discussion on the vote to oppose the New Vistas development, urging a “Yes” vote on Article VIII.
Leavitt wants local officials, neighboring towns, the legislature, governor, and the rest of the state to know the town is unified in thinking the development is inappropriate. Leavitt voiced concerns for natural resources: air, water and land, and a potential overload on town services. He also revealed that New Vistas’ David Hall had told him that he didn’t care whether people here oppose the plan.
Hall has repeatedly asserted that the development will take place so far in the future we won’t be here to see it, while Leavitt says coming from generations in the same area, we look forward to our future generations being a part of this land. Harry Dodge wondered what Leavitt suggests for people who have to sell land because of “the ridiculous taxes we have to pay.”
Focus on Water
Jo Levasseur thanked David Ainsworth for taking up the issue in the legislature’s Natural Resources Committee and urged voters to move beyond ideological arguments, look at long-term realities of water quality and the threat to the watershed from Hall’s plans, stated in his web site, to drill five miles deep to extract everything needed to build New Vistas.
“We’re lucky enough to have some of the purist water available,” she said, and we shouldn’t allow that to be threatened.
Del Thrurston, on the other hand, expressed the view that if New Vistas wants to buy land and pay taxes, we should roll out the welcome mat.
Lister Jeff Barcelow seemed to say that opposition should be in the form of zoning, which Royalton doesn’t have. He said the Act 250 process is rigorous, and a system is in place for dealing with a 20,000- person development.
Planning Commission Chair Beth Wilhite asked voters to get involved with the planning vision for the town. At upcoming meetings the Commission will focus on (1) Historic places, important services and historic buildings; (2) Energy use, development and law; (3) Agriculture, agro-tourism and art; and (4) a development plan for the town’s use of the Crawford property.
“We need to come together as a community”, she said, “and not let outside forces divide us up”. After a request to call the question, a paper ballot resulted in 123 votes of yes, to oppose New Vistas, and 16 no. There were roughly 163 in attendance.
The vote is officially non-binding, noted Town Clerk Karmen Bascom.