Hinesburg taps the brakes on ordinances

SCOOTER MACMILLAN
Staff Writer

The Hinesburg Selectboard is tightening up a few local ordinances that should mean more money going to town coffers. The changes will also make it safer getting to and from Champlain Valley Union High School (CVU).

At the Sept. 4 meeting, the selectboard decided to wait two weeks to confirm an already existing speed limit ordinance on CVU Road, to give drivers time to make the adjustment.

The speed limit posted on signs on CVU Road is 35 mph from Highway 116 to the four-way stop just east of the school, except during school hours when – according to a flashing signs at the school entrance – the speed limit is 25.

However, the speed limit is 25 mph 24 hours a day, whether or not school is in session. according to an ordinance passed by the selectboard in 1987, Hinesburg Police Chief Anthony Cambridge said. He said the signs were put up by someone with the school sometime during the 2003-05 construction of the addition to CVU. In a phone conversation after the meeting, Cambridge said that he hasn’t found anyone who knows how or why the signs saying 35 mph hour were erected. He also said that Principal Adam Bunting is really excited to have the speed limit posted at the legally set speed.

“He totally supports bringing the speed limit down to 25 mph,” said Cambridge. “It’s a no-brainer.”

The issue was not on the agenda for the Sept. 5 meeting. To give people a chance to adjust to the speed limit change, selectboard members said they would wait until the Sept. 14 meeting to confirm the existing speed limit and endorse the removal of the 35 mph signs.

“It’s been 22 years. Two weeks isn’t going to matter,” said selectboard member Aaron Kimball.

“Hopefully,” said chair Phil Pouech.

At least three speed limit signs along the road will be changed. The flashing light in front of the school that says 25 mph will remain, but a separate sign attached to the same pole that reads “during school hours,” will be removed if the selectboard confirms the existing speed limit.

Stop in the name of town law

The other piece of ordinance grooming was the approval of an update to Hinesburg’s stop sign ordinance.

Cambridge told the selectboard that the town has always had a stop sign ordinance. However,  the state courts have required more from local ordinances than just “you must stop at a stop sign.” One state requirement is that the ordinance include a list of all the stop signs in a town. This is included in the ordinance that Cambridge proposed.

Local police officers have continued to ticket drivers for not stopping, but because the ordinance has not been updated for at least 15 years, Cambridge said, the majority of the money collected from these fines has gone to the state.

“So, the state has been making $162 per stop sign when every other town makes $220,” Cambridge said. “We’re going to still be writing the same number of stop-sign tickets.”

The motion to pass the updated town ordinance on stop signs was approved 4-0 with Merrily Lovell voting by phone and Tom Ayer absent. He joined the meeting about 45 minutes after it started.

Pouech asked if Cambridge was going to be proposing other new ordinances and the chief replied that he was considering proposing ordinances about parking and cell phones.

Some people are parking the wrong way in directional parking and the city might want to create an ordinance to enforce parking correctly.

“We don’t enforce that right now,” he said.

As far as cell phones, Cambridge would like Hinesburg to have a cell phone ordinance. Now, police are writing tickets for people using their cell phones while driving, but under a state law, most of the money goes to the state.

“Again, nothing changes. Same number of cell phone tickets,” he said. With a town cell phone ordinance, the majority of the fees collected would go to Hinesburg.

“Feel free to write as many of those as you want,” said Pouech laughing, clearly not a fan of driving under the influence of cell phones.

Selectboard member Jeff French thanked the police chief for finding holes in the ordinances, closing them up and keeping funds in Hinesburg with expenses on the horizon.

“There’s no desire here to write more tickets or go out and make money,” Pouech said. “We’ll continue to enforce.” 

He remembered Cambridge saying that each time a driver gets stopped, it’s a teaching moment. Pouech said a few years ago he’d gotten a warning for not stopping at a stop sign.

“I’ll say, every time I  go to that stop sign, I make sure I stop.”

Drill, Baby, drill

The selectboard had a discussion with Ben Avery of BlackRock Construction and Hinesburg Water Works Superintendent Erik Bailey about whether to keep on drilling the water well the construction and the town are cooperating to develop. The contract is for the construction company to take the well to 700 feet, but the well is over 560 feet now and appears to be producing a good amount of water.

Bailey said the opinion of the well driller and the hydrogeologist is that there is more water than that. Going on to 700 feet has a slight bit of risk of damaging the fractures that hold the water, but he said the rock at the depth where the drill is now looks stable.

The board decided to keep going. Bailey said they monitor the drilling closely so if anything develops they can stop and check back with the selectboard.

Selectboard member Aaron Kimball asked how the depth of 700 feet was arrived at for the agreement. Bailey said that other wells in the area seem to indicate that 700 feet is where the water usually is.

“Well drilling is as much art as it is science,” said Bailey. “Any of your hydrogeology stuff, there’s a lot of magic involved, a little luck.”

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