Hinesburg residents face decisions on traffic and environmental impact

Staff Reporter

Next week Hinesburg residents will vote on the future of the town.

The budget proposed by the selectboard includes saving for future expenses, there is a selectboard race for a seat that was held by Andrea Morgante for 27 years, and there are questions about traffic and energy use.

The $3,962,539 town budget is broken into six items – general government, highway department, police, fire, library and social organization donations. There is also a $50,000 proposed budget item to fix the intersection of Vt. Route 116 and Charlotte Road.

There is one item did not make it onto the ballot, but a group of residents are planning to bring it to the floor. It’s an energy resolution created by the energy committee. The resolution asks the town to urge the state to “halt any new or expanded fossil fuel infrastructure,” commit to 90 percent renewable energy, and helps with energy efficiency.

The resolution lays a list of four items the town will commit to doing to help the state with its goals.

“There are several assumptions behind the resolution,” explained Chuck Reiss, energy committee chair. “One is that climate change is very real and it needs to be addressed now. Another, is that there are alternatives to fossil fuel.”

The committee came to the selectboard in January with a proposal for a warned article for Town Meeting Day. However, the selectboard asked the committee to reevaluate the resolution.

“This (new) resolution is dealing a lot with municipal building changing to be more energy efficient and run on renewables,” Reiss said. “And it’s encouraging residents to do the same.”

The previous version submitted was more focused on not expanding fossil fuel infrastructure.

The energy committee has taken steps towards these goals. Committee members have hosted events such as the four-part series on how to get a house to net zero energy and a healthy house workshop. The committee is also working on distributing more informational materials, including an analysis of the difference between natural gas and weatherization for a home, Reiss said.

“Our community is behind those things,” Reiss said.

The committee is also working with the planning commission to potentially move the town toward building codes with higher standards for energy efficiency.

Reiss said he is interested in hearing what Hinesburg residents think.

“This is the kind of discussion we should have town-wide on the floor and see where the town goes with it,” he told the selectboard in January.

Fixing traffic

Hinesburg residents are being asked to budget $50,000 for changes to the light at the intersection of VT Route 116 and Charlotte Road. This will pay for improvements to the exit lane from Lantman’s Market and the crosswalk.

“Townspeople complain about traffic delays, which appear to have been increasing over the last few years. Traffic studies tell us there is no “silver bullet” to reduce our traffic but do suggest modifications to Rt. 116, which should result in some traffic delay reduction,” the selectboard wrote in the town report.

The changes to the intersection and timing the lights are the two suggested methods to alleviate Route 116 traffic by the Vermont Agency of Transportation. The modifications to the intersection need to occur before the Vermont Agency of Transportation will look at the timing of the lights to fix congestion through Hinesburg Village.

This modification to the intersection is a condition for the Hannaford Brothers Co. grocery store permit in the development review board’s decision of the project. The grocery store chain is set to pay for the modifications when development starts. After being denied by the development review board in October 2018, the decision is now in the Environmental Court.

“The Selectboard believes, even in the best case, this development permit is still years away and considering the legal issues, the intersection changes may never be completed,” the board wrote in its annual town report. “The reason this project is not in the selectboard’s proposed budget is the board feels this should be a taxpayer decision. It is hard to predict how much better traffic will flow and what that is worth to taxpayers.”

Town of Hinesburg
Monday, March 4, 7 p.m. – Town Meeting
Champlain Valley Union High School auditorium
(Residents will be asked to vote on budget items during the meeting.)

Tuesday, March 5, 7 a.m.-7 p.m. – Voting by Australian Ballot at Town Hall

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