By SCOOTER MACMILLAN
The annual Charlotte Candidate’s Night returned to the Charlotte Grange on Tuesday after several years at the Senior Center.
It was a popular move. The downstairs meeting room was packed as more than 40 voters attended to hear what the five contenders for two seats on the Charlotte Selectboard had to say.
There were only a couple of empty seats and a line of constituents stood at the back wall or in the kitchen.
Three of the five candidates — Dr. James Faulkner, Louise McCarren, and Ed Stone — are running for the three-year term occupied by board chair Lane Morrison, who is not running for re-election. All five of the candidates took an opportunity to compliment Morrison’s tenure on the selectboard and bemoan his stepping down.
Two of the candidates, incumbent Frank W. Tenney and challenger Nancy Richardson, are contending for a two-year term.
The most common issue the questioners and the candidates kept coming back to was how to grow Charlotte without growing it too much.
Vince Crockenberg, publisher of the Charlotte News, moderated the discussion. He started the meeting by having the candidates introduce themselves, explain why they were running, and what they would do if elected
Faulkner started by saying is running for selectboard because he “saw a community, the same size as this one, go from a sleepy little fishing village (Cape Porpoise in Kennebunkport, Maine) to something unrecognizable.”
In his two years as a selectboard member, Tenney said that he has learned a lot and that now he has “a good handle on what we do.”
Stone said that he had come to the meeting for two reasons. One was to thank Morrison for being “the best chairman that I’ve seen in a long time.” The other reason was that he wants to see a committee formed to work on affordable housing and he asked Peter Joslin if he would chair that committee.
Joslin, currently chair of the Charlotte Energy Committee replied, “I’m not here to run for a committee.”
Richardson said that she’d lived in Charlotte since the early 1990s. After being on a number of boards, she said, “I thought it was time for me to get involved with the local community… I think there’s a large emphasis on protecting what we have because what we have is really beautiful, but sometimes staying in place means going backwards.”
She said that Charlotte is the wealthiest community in Vermont with an aging population, but “young people can’t afford to live here, the school population is going down, and we have infrastructure problems in the village centers.”
McCarren said that she has been in Vermont since 1976, “rearing children, raising plants and various animals with her husband, long enough to probably know better.”
After years of experience in government and private business, on many boards and running companies, McCarren said that she had decided it “was time to contribute to the town of Charlotte and I have the experiences and resources to do that.”
To change and how
The candidates were asked if they were comfortable with the way things are in town or is there anything that they would like to see change. Tenney replied that the Town Plan voters have approved provides guidance for growth. He talked about the trail system and endorsed having the trails developed so that they link the two villages., and added that he wants to see the villages be more walkable.
Faulkner said the likes the open vistas, the agricultural aspects, and the woodlands, adding that he understands “it can’t stay the way it is.”
Something has to be done, Faulkner said, so that people can afford to stay in Charlotte and to develop affordable housing.
McCarren said that there is always going to be a tension between the area’s “rural path and change.”
Richardson expressed worry that Charlotte could become “a gated wealthy community.”
“We’ve got to look at the zoning and land-use regulations that haven’t been changed in 30 years,” she said.
Tenney disagreed with that, saying that the Town Plan isn’t that old.
“We just changed it, and time ran out before we could get the energy part done, so we’re working on that now,” he said.
In response to a question about what Tenney has or has not done that should prevent him from being re-elected, Richardson said, “I’m a firm believer that boards operate best when they have term limits and they have new perspectives. I honor Frank Tenney and his work on the selectboard. I am not running against Frank. I am running for the seat. And the last time I looked, there are not names attached to the seats for the selectboard in this town.”
Expanding the tax base
Richardson said that Charlotte needs to expand its tax base, “but we don’t want to change this into Shelburne.”
Faulkner said that one of the things that is holding back development “is we need broadband.”
“There’s fiber to the homes in most areas of Charlotte,” she said. “That means that individuals that would like to work from home can do that.”
“If you want to have more businesses in town, the first thing you’d got to do is adjust the zoning bylaws, adjust the maps so we have more commercial areas,” said Tenney. “The main reason the Maplefields didn’t get in is because of an antiquated bylaw that said a service station or gas station could only have 30 square-feet of non-automotive retail space.”
The meeting ended with each of the five candidates giving a clear and succinct “no” to the question of whether Charlotte should have a police force.
But at the forum’s conclusion, only one question remained unanswered: If horses are allowed on town trails (as Stone advocated), should riders be required to clean up after their horses?