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Selectboard Minutes 6/27/2023

Selectboard Minutes Warned Special Meeting

June 27, 2023

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Present:

Selectboard: Sheila Duranleau, Chair, Fred Blanchard, AJ Galfetti

Employees: Josh Bell, Nick Benoit, Lois Deberville

Visitors: (names the best as could make out) Vincent Iorio, Sarah Teel, Gayle Callahan, Joe Callahan, Billy Donovan, George Hunt, Jim Boudreault, Jeremy Jacobs, Cannon Williams, Ryan Rich, Carl Johnson, Robbie Perdue, Justin Edson, Joe Pelkey, Bill Lemieux, Kara Williams, Joe Lemieux, Seanna Lemieux, Lori Beede, Leon Beede, Katie Futterman, Josh Grandbois, Jeff Shirlock, Kay Kuzmik, Jody Purdu, Kevin Rice, Dan Driscoll, Chelsea Driscoll, Matt Trepanier, Travis Moran, Chris Sanborn, Ryan John, Adam Crawford, Kristin Smith, Courtney Avery, Allen Avery, Lloyd MacCormack, Norm Vermette, Sherry Beede, Howard Beede, Justin Johnson, Terri Crawford, Nathan Lafont

Zoom viewers: Greg, Diggers phone, Gordon Pirie, Judy and Kay, Cheri’s iPad, Ryan Bresette, Putney TVW, Lisa Costa, Danielle Palmer, Tammy, GregD, Nancy Blanchard, John Langstaff, Joan, Lisle Kulbach, Rachel Onuf, Nicholas Bresette, Meredith Cox, Dana Teel, Lisa Costa

  1. Meeting called to order by Chair at 6:27 p.m.
  2. Adoption of minutes: June 6, 2023-motion by AJ, 2nd by Fred, carried by ayes.

          June 13, 2023-motion by Fred, 2nd by AJ, carried by ayes

           June 21, 2023-motion by AJ, 2nd by Fred, carried by ayes

  • ATV Ordinance-next steps: Chair explained that each person would be allotted 5 minutes to speak the first round, and then another 5 minutes the 2nd and last round. Her thoughts on pros and cons: Pros of revising-if ordinance is revised, it would provide more guidance to riders and residents i.e.: curfew, locations. There is a process for law enforcement but law enforcement is hard to allocate. Cons-enforcement is difficult, some riders are disrespectful and won’t abide by any rules. Pros of repeal: the state of Vermont has basic statutes governing ATV use, this is what we use, town would identify the roads allowed. Cons-no stated curfew. Revising would start the process over, repeal process is the same. Board holds the authority on which roads are opened and/or closed according to statute. Board could do a policy by voice vote similar to other towns. She said someone who was attending this meeting had mentioned opening up all Class 2, 3,4 roads so nobody feels somebody else is getting special treatment, and this is something to consider.

AJ and Fred thinking revision would be better than repealing, this would be more concrete. Fred: likes the idea of everyone being able to use the roads, they maintain them they should be able to use them. AJ: brought draft of an ordinance opening up all Class 2, 3 4 roads, then shouldn’t have to change it.

Chair opened up the floor for public comments. Rob Perdue: if repealed and put in a policy, it could be revised over the winter with all working on it. Chair: if repealed or revised it’d have to go through the same process and the season would be done. Ten attendees stated they also would like all the roads opened.

 Sarah Teel read her letter to the board and asked that it be admitted into the minutes, see attached.

Billy Donovan: why repeal or revise rather than leave it as is, referring to Chair saying a petition shows community voice as does no petition. This was the language people were asked to vote on.

AJ said there were some errors which was not their intent. Billy quoted

language from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns. He suggests sending each resident a mailer asking what they’d want. A committee would be pursuing a holistic approach, ATV policy perhaps could be rolled into town plan/road policy, avoids suspicion.

Sherry Beede: at minimum would like Class 2,3,4 roads opened to residents. Thanked the board for listening to the community.

Courtney Avery: open up all the roads to spread out the ATVs.  

Dan Driscoll: ATVs are registered and legal, should be treated equal to mud trucks and loud vehicles.

Kara Williams: store losing money (gas, food). The money from the ATVs come back to the state/local. Sport huge for community and her family.

Perdue: the future is electric, will help with noise and emissions. Club spends lots of money fixing roads. One option to start with is open roads to Washington residents only. Average owner is older, respectful adult. Open up the roads so neighbors can visit neighbors. People generally follow the trails.

Gayle Callahan: how many would use the trails. Perdue: can’t give a number, growing sport. Club solved a big mud truck problem, a landowner said almost down to zero. Membership doubled during Covid, since then people have too much stuff going on (won’t see the huge numbers riding).

Chair: if we limited roads to town residents only, there’d be a big reduction in numbers. Donovan: said he presented options last November: residents only and a committee.

Sherry: we ride the trails a lot and hardly ever meet another ATV.

Donovan: that’s not our experience. To revise policy to bring back to town only, how does that get enforced. Thinks committee is the way to go. Read a letter by Dori Hale re: ATV traffic affecting economic activity. (i.e.: logging) Addressed selectboard and asked if any of them have driven through Woodchuck Hollow, asked Chair if she saw erosion. Chair: nothing to compare it to. (having not been up there before) Ordinance gave the residents the right to enjoy quiet, and right to say yes or no to what’s happening in their neighborhood, gave ATVers the right to ask permission. “a model democratic ordinance”. Asked board what is so repugnant about giving people the right to choose. Chair: find nothing repugnant. The reason to revise or repeal is because there was a mistake made in the ordinance, want to find a way to fix that ordinance and revise other parts. Was asked what was the mistake: the part of trail that was opened before the ordinance was adopted and is not opened now.

AJ: that part has been opened since 2008. (permission from land owners) evolved since there, moving forward and not going back.

Teel: what is definition of open?

AJ: that is why good thing to get ordinance going, documented in selectboard meeting, 2008-2009. No written document.

Nathan Lafont: other trails to go on, not everyone goes on these, curious as to how it would affect him (as a non-resident) if can’t go on the roads.

Howard Beede: doesn’t think hundreds and hundreds of riders come here to ride.

Sherry: re: existing ordinance-feel people didn’t have an issue with mistake because thought club would have the same ask. Doesn’t believe any ordinance should be written to let 1 or 2

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override the wishes of many. Need to rally around those to make them feel safe in their homes.

Courtney: how do people know its people on ATVs (causing problems), if they see someone on an ATV doing something, report it.

Kara: opening Class 2, 3, 4 to only residents, hopes not the case, friends come to ride with them, want them to have the same access.

Perdue: would still use roads as connectors

Nick Bresette via Zoom: the reason they came up with the ordinance last year was in response to getting some law enforcement in town due to mud trucks, was brought to attention that ATVs were on Class 2, there were no roads listed open or closed so there was no law enforcement. Selectboard has to pay attention to gully roads, state wants repairs, one way to do that was to have ATV club with assistance of the town fix these roads up. Example: Pepper Road. Working with partners like the ATV Club will be one way to keep taxes going through the roof.

Motion made to revise the ordinance by AJ/ 2nd by Fred, carried by ayes.

Fred made motion to adjourn at 7:35 p.m., 2nd by AJ, carried by ayes.

Submitted by Lois Deberville

Draft form, subject to approval at July 11, 2023 selectboard meeting

June 27, 2023
To the Washington Selectboard members
Re: ATV ordinance and ATV policy considerations
I am writing to express my support for leaving the current ATV ordinance in place.
In the long term, I am also in support of any policy that results in less–or even no–ATV
traffic on class 4 roads and class 3 roads including those named as open in the current
ordinance, in any and all parts of the town of Washington. If there are to be changes to
the current ordinance or a repeal of the ordinance it should be done at minimum with
the time and input of a committee, and adequate consideration of town-wide and
affected landowner input, as most other nearby towns appear to have done.
I have come to this position after looking at information from neighboring towns, the
processes that have led to their decisions, and trying to understand better what is going
on with ATVs in Vermont in a bigger context. There are also environmental and human
impacts that are obvious, and significant, and I am reluctant to admit that I think these
also need to be seriously considered, because saying that seems like a very quick way to
invite scorn in town. But it also seems important for the Selectboard to note that the
fear of a range of personal/property repercussions is real and has always prevented
people from getting involved with this issue.
The goal of the Vermont ATV Sportsman’s Association (VASA) is to formalize a statewide
trail system, by piecing together permission and then selling access to this
network. Since so many landowners will not give permission for trails to cross their
land, VASA has turned to towns to grant permission to use roads that otherwise have
never been legally open to ATVs. They can only sell the sticker that says “you have
permission to ride here” if towns cooperate. The local ATV clubs all around the state do
the work of trying to promote this goal for VASA, as volunteers. I expect they also bear
the burden in situations like these of absorbing people’s negative opinions about ATVs,
which perhaps should more appropriately be directed upwards to VASA.
Roads designated as official ATV trails are no longer attractive or even safe for a number
of other recreational activities, every single one of which has fewer negative impacts to
nature, people, and property values than do ATVs. So, this is a choice the town is
making, and I think it is very questionable whether going in the direction VASA wants us
to go is the right choice. Washington is undercutting our own potential and sacrificing
our residents’ wellbeing by allowing ourselves to be a magnet for ATV traffic from all
over the state and beyond.
Towns should not be giving away our roads so that VASA can sell them.
If I am to gain the right via this ordinance to prevent my road from being opened in the
future, then any of my neighbors should also have the same right, and should have had
the same right prior to this ordinance being written. To repeal this ordinance and rewrite is

as the ATV groups want would make it pretty clear that this question of
landowner rights is really only meant to offer enough people reassurance that their
property is safe that the issue won’t turn out a big enough voting number to thwart the
process of locking in access to the desired trails.
So, while I think there are ethical questions with the ordinance in general, it does as
written provide some boundaries and needed regulation, which have proven over the
years to be necessary. It has also significantly improved the quality of life of many of my
neighbors and provided long-needed relief from an unsustainable level of traffic.
Changes to this ordinance would create the appearance that the interests of VASA are
more important than understanding how this issue actually affects the town and its
residents. Maybe the town could look carefully into the wishes of the other residents
on the roads named as open; it may be that many of them are also not willingly
absorbing the traffic they have been faced with. This isn’t just a “nuisance” or opinion
for people; there are objective measures that validate that lots of ATV traffic is
intolerable.
This op-ed points to some of these measures of noise and risk and includes this very
relevant information:
“The background noise level in rural areas is generally 30 to 40 decibels (dB). A research
paper, “The Impact of Traffic Noise on Housing Values,” gives this number context:
“According to World Health Organization (WHO, 1999), noises under 45 dBA are
endurable. However, for outdoor activities, exposure levels exceeding 55 dBA are
deemed highly unpleasant and unacceptable as defined by EPA (1981).” In other words,
a passing ATV, estimated at 75 – 89 dB at 45 feet (Noise NavigatorTM Sound Level
Database), will sound loud, and have a high probability of being annoying. If two or
more ATVs pass by together the noise level rises and can exceed 15 times background
levels typical in rural areas.”
So does this compilation of additional information about noise levels, which reveals that
the decibel level of an ATV is above the threshold for permanent hearing damage,
would universally be labeled as “hazardous,” and is almost as many decibels as a
helicopter. It is very reasonable, in fact normal, for residents to be bothered by the
noise, especially when it is repeated, multiplied, and out of their control.
Likewise, and even more significantly, is the fact that an ATV can emit as much pollution
in one hour as over 30 automobiles. It is very reasonable to object to this experience in
your backyard.
And, I don’t think it’s a good idea to condone and invite the use of equipment that is
specifically described by the manufacturer as well as the Consumer Federation of
America as not safe for use on roads, on town roads.
I don’t expect the ATV industry to take these points seriously, but I hope the town can
take them seriously.
Thank you for your attention to this.
Respectfully,
Sarah Teel