Brandon SB discusses parades, Act 250, and solar 


BRANDON—The Brandon Selectboard convened for its regular meeting on Monday evening. Among the items on the agenda were a potential Scouts parade for veterans, a repeal of Brandon’s one-acre Act 250 policy, and a letter of support for a private solar array.

The meeting began with the unanimous approval of $291,100 to cover the cost of treating wastewater. The amount includes chemicals and services. A full run-down of the expenses is available in the 6/10 packet for the Sewer Commissioners on the town’s website. Stephen Cijka, head of Brandon’s wastewater plant, was in attendance to explain to the Board the necessity of the purchases.

The Board then unanimously approved a warrant for $60,680.54 to cover the town’s expenses and obligations.

Rural development workshops

Jenna Koloski and Alyssa Johnson of the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) spoke to the Board about the possibility of conducting “community visits” in Brandon to help town residents conceive and implement specific projects to achieve specific goals. Ms. Koloski stated that this program differs from the town plan that every town is statutorily required to develop in that town plans often focus on larger, more general goals without laying out any specific path to achieving them. 

The VCRD program would entail “bringing as many voices in the community together as possible” in a series of forums over the course of 4 to 6 months to identify priorities and develop actionable plans to achieve them. The process would also include surveys and a “community dinner.”

The program is free of charge, though VCRD would ask the town to cover the cost of mailings and the community dinner.

Ms. Koloski noted that VCRD had conducted the program successfully in many other towns large and small.

One attendee asked whether the program would include residents from all economic sectors of Brandon and Ms. Koloski stated that VCRD had experience with broad ranges of income and an effort would be made to include members of all economic backgrounds.

Brandon Economic Development Officer Bill Moore has participated in this program as a visiting expert to other towns and said he believed it would be helpful to Brandon after the rough budget season the town had just been through.

“It would be an interesting time to take the barometer of the town,” Moore said.

Town Manager and Rec Department reports

The Town Manager’s report is reproduced in full following this article and the Rec Director’s report is available in the 6/10 Selectboard packet on the town website.

Of particular note in the Rec Director’s report were thanks to all who sponsored and coached the baseball/softball/t-ball teams this spring and the announcement that the Rec Department will partner with the Brandon Area Chamber of Commerce to apply for a Transformational Tourism, Events and Regional Marketing grant. 

These grants range from $50K to $150K and require no match from the town. They’re designed to create regional events that draw people from out of state to boost the local economy. The April eclipse was given as an ideal example of an event that brought in out-of-state dollars. 

If received, the grant would be used to help boost activities regarding Thomas Davenport and energy, in collaboration with SolarFest.

Appointments to town committees

The Board unanimously approved the re-appointments of the following people:

  • Robert Clark to the Development Review Board (3-year term ending on June 30, 2027)
  • Neil Silins to the Planning Commission (1-year term ending on June 30, 2025)
  • Frank Spezzano to the Revolving Loan Committee (3-year term ending on June 30, 2027)
  • Tom Whittaker to the Revolving Loan Committee (3-year term ending on June 30, 2027)
  • Judy Bunde to the Revolving Loan Committee (as an alternate)(1-year term ending on June 30, 2025)
  • Jack Schneider to the Revolving Loan Committee (as an alternate)(3-year term ending on June 30, 2027)
  • Jack Schneider to the Rutland Regional Planning Commission (1-year term ending on June 30, 2025)

The following positions remain vacant:

  • Constable
  • Development Review Board alternate
  • Deputy fire warden
  • Deputy health officer
  • Historic Preservation Commission (1 seat)
  • Otter Creek Watershed Insect Control Board (1 seat)
  • Otter Creek Watershed Insect Control Board alternate
  • Rutland Regional Planning Commission alternate

If interested in any of these vacancies, please contact the town manager or a member of the Selectboard.

Fuel Supplier

The Board unanimously approved the following suppliers of fuel to the town:

  • Champlain Valley Fuels of Middlebury for on-road diesel at 15¢ over Valero Rutland Rack, which was $2.7312 on June 1.
  • Champlain Valley Fuels for fuel oil at the fixed price of $2.87 per gallon, including tax.
  • Suburban Propane at $1.535 per gallon.

These vendors also supplied fuel to the town in FY2024.

Scouting parade for veterans

The Board approved a parade by Scouting USA honoring veterans and current military, law enforcement, and first responders to take place on November 9, 2024 on Park Street Extension and Park Street, terminating at Central Park.

Local scout leaders Roy Murdock and Sarah-Lynne Carrara and Green Mountain Council representative Billy Gilliam, Jr. presented the plan to the Board, who were concerned that the parade find a safe route that did not involve Route 7. The route up Park Street has been used safely by other parades and events, as the roads are easy to close off and detours are readily available.

The parade will be of no cost to the town and the organizers will provide proof of liability insurance in advance. Similar parades have been held in St. Johnsbury, Barre, and Vergennes.

The vote to approve was 4-1, with Board member Tim Guiles the sole nay. Mr. Guiles expressed discomfort with the military aspects of the parade, stating that although he felt deep respect for those who have served, he didn’t feel it was appropriate to glorify war. The representatives of the scouting groups replied that they try to teach kids about the horrors of war as well.

Private solar array

The Board unanimously approved a motion to provide a letter to Novus Energy of Montpelier in support of its plan to construct a 150kW solar array on a lot at the Brandon Industrial Park off of Arnold District Road. The lot is the one that would have been used for the town-owned array that was proposed and defeated in March.

Novus would direct electricity from the array into Green Mountain Power’s grid and the Town of Brandon would receive a 15% discount on its GMP electric bills. Novus will pay a nominal annual rent of less than $100 for use of the lot, according to Town Manager Seth Hopkins.

The site is owned by the Brandon Industrial Corporation, a nonprofit entity created in the 1960s to develop business uses for town-owned land. The first such parcel was the former playing fields for the old Brandon High School on Prospect Street, which later became the site of Nexus Electronics.

Brandon’s town manager has often been a member of BIC’s board of directors throughout the organization’s history, according to current and former town managers. At Town Meeting this past March, Frank Farnsworth stated that this had been the case for as long as he could remember. Current Brandon Town Manager Seth Hopkins is a member of BIC’s board of directors.

One attendee, who had previously and publicly criticized the relationship between the town manager and BIC, brought the issue up again on Monday, insinuating that Mr. Hopkins’s involvement on the board of BIC represented an unspecified conflict of interest when the town was negotiating a contract for use of the lot. No evidence of wrongdoing was offered to justify the insinuation, though Mr. Hopkins’s role as registered agent of BIC with the Vermont Secretary of State was mentioned to support the assertion that Mr. Hopkins may have an improper role in any deal between the town and BIC.

However, the Secretary of State’s database also makes clear that Mr. Hopkins is a director without a title (e.g., president, secretary, or treasurer). In other words, he is a regular member of BIC’s board with no special duties or authority. And a registered agent is simply a point of contact between the state and a corporation. The position confers no special powers or status within a corporation. In fact, registered agents are often not even employees or board members of the corporation for whom they act as agents with the state. 

Having heard these unsubstantiated insinuations from this attendee before—the attendee made the same allegations at Town Meeting—Mr. Hopkins cautioned her not to keep repeating them and that her comments were “tiresome and bordering on harassment of public officials.” 

Act 250 threshold repeal

In a 4-1 vote (with Mr. Coolidge voting no) the Board approved the repeal of a local ordinance that triggered Act 250 review for development of parcels larger than 1 acre. The threshold, as specified by state law, will now be 10 acres. This means that development projects in Brandon on lots smaller than 10 acres will not be automatically subject to Act 250 review, which can be costly and time consuming. Those in favor of the repeal argued that the 1-acre threshold had outlived its usefulness and was now impeding beneficial development in Brandon.

The repeal of the ordinance does not affect any of Brandon’s other zoning and land-use ordinances, nor does it affect the ability of Brandon’s Development Review Board (DRB) to impose conditions on development of smaller lots or even to deny permits altogether. It also leaves intact the ability of Brandon residents to attend DRB meetings to voice opposition, regardless of whether their homes abut the properties in question or whether they are simply “interested parties” who object to a project. 

Mr. Coolidge raised concerns that there was no hurry to repeal Brandon’s threshold, especially in light of the state legislature’s current reform of Act 250. He suggested that the Board wait to see how the legislature revamped the act. 

Mr. Hopkins pointed out that the portion that dealt with the threshold was not part of the current reform and would not be affected by the legislature’s actions. He also noted that Act 250 offered only 2 options for towns: a 1-acre threshold or a 10-acre threshold, with 10 acres as the default. Mr. Hopkins added that Brandon’s current 1-acre threshold was not the norm in Rutland County.

Mr. Guiles and Board member Ralph Ethier expressed support for the repeal, noting that it would help small businesses.

Board Chair Doug Bailey stated that his experience subdividing a large parcel years ago led him to believe that Act 250 was redundant in a town with the land-use oversight that Brandon has.

However, some attendees continued to worry that the repeal would allow improper development of smaller parcels.

Town employee paid holiday list update

The Board unanimously approved an updated list of holidays for which full- and part-time town employees will receive paid leave.

The town added June 19th (“Juneteenth), renamed Columbus Day as “Indigenous Peoples Day,” and redesignated the day after Thanksgiving as the “Friday after the 4th Thursday in November.”

Juneteenth is now a state holiday that marks the day in 1865 that the enslaved were emancipated in Texas, the last enslaved population to be freed in the United States. The change to Indigenous Peoples Day was also mandated by state law.

The change to the day after Thanksgiving is meant to eliminate any confusion arising from years in which the fourth Friday in November does not fall on the day after the fourth Thursday (which is the legal date for Thanksgiving).

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