Hybrid Andover information meeting focuses on ATV ordinance Nearly 100 residents attend online or in person

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Saturday before Town Meeting Day is usually when the Town of Andover gathers its voters to do the town’s business. But in light of the pandemic – and at the urging of residents – the Select Board opted again this year to vote all articles by Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 1, with Saturday set aside for its information-only meeting in person and via Zoom.

Moderator Jonathan Bliss kept the meeting moving and calm. Images courtesy of Okemo Valley TV

With nearly 100 attending in Town Hall and online, the meeting moved through the first eight of the 10-article warning in 40 minutes.  Most of the remainder of the two-hour meeting was spent on the next to last article, which asks voters if they want the town’s Select Board “to adopt an ATV ordinance.” Although the warning did not spell out the nature of the ordinance, it was understood to mean one that allowed the use of ATVs on town roads.

Moderator Jonathan Bliss noted that the wording does not identify a particular ordinance. Board member Maddy Bodin said that was not the case, that the board and the audience were working from and discussing a draft ordinance published on page 11 of the town’s annual report and that the vote would be an up or down verdict on that ordinance.

Hank Mauti explains the state’s regulations regarding ATVs

Since voting on such an ordinance is a select board responsibility though, the public vote is advisory. Bodin said that the board members had promised to vote based on the public’s vote, but there was a question about this since three of the board’s five members had either resigned or had chosen not to run for re-election.

Andover resident Hank Mauti referred to a publication of the State of Vermont on operating ATVs and explained the issue in terms of a parent putting a couple of fishing poles in the back of an ATV and taking a young child fishing. He also said he expected that local residents would be respectful of each other in operating the vehicles.

Others echoed the idea that Andover residents would not be the problem, pointing to those coming to the area for short-term rentals like AirBnB and VRBO and operating ATVs without regard for residents. One resident noted that none of the neighboring towns allow riding the vehicles on public roads and if the town approves the ordinance, it will become a magnet for those who want to do that.

Connie Kendall asked the board to give a history of the idea of having ATVs drive on town roads

And at almost every point, the question of enforcement was raised.

Joe Fromberger objected to the wording of the ordinance saying that it is set up to trump other ordinances that conflict with it. He pointed to the ATV ordinance being adopted by the select board while zoning ordinances (for example) are by town vote and asserted that the town vote has greater weight.

Connie Kendall said she wanted to “hear the history of why we need this.”

Board member Scott Kendall told the room that last year “over 60 percent voted to have us draw a draft up – that’s what this is,” he said holding up paper. “A draft. If you guys don’t like the draft, vote no. That’s perfectly fine … we did what you guys asked, that’s all we did … we did our jobs. That’s all I’m gonna say.”

Mary Giammarino asked who brought it up and Town Clerk Jeanette Haight said that Chris Walker – who has resigned from the Select Board several weeks ago and whose unfilled term of office is on the ballot on Tuesday —  indicated that constituents had expressed interest, so he brought it up.

Board member Scott Kendall, second from left, saying that the board had done the job that voters had asked at last year’s town meeting day.

“Residents of Andover are responsible people and would ride their ATVs responsibly,” said Glen Irwin. “Everybody’s big concern is outsiders coming here – short-term renters or just dragging trailers up and just riding around day and night whenever they want to.”

Irwin asked if the ordinance could be written to apply only to residents.

Kendall said the board wanted that, but the state of Vermont said no. In response to the question of whether the town could have its own registration of ATVs, Kendall said the state “shot that down too.”

Noting that before short-term rentals came along – five or six years ago – the ordinance might have been OK, Andover resident Jean Peters said, “Now it’s just an invitation for trouble.

“I’m not worried about short-term rentals,” said Lenore Szuchman, adding that if the ordinance passes, Andover would be “the only town for miles around that would have this.” Szuchman said her concern was that anyone in the state of Vermont could come to town to ride their ATVs around on the roads.

More than one third of those attending the meeting were on Zoom

Melissa Gates (who is a candidate for Walker’s seat on the board) asked what a yes or no vote would mean.

Bodin said that was complicated, but that the board had not understood how ordinances were adopted and that it was the board’s job to do that for town ordinances and they promised to abide by whatever the town voted. She noted that three members of that five member board will not be there after town meeting day and the new board members had not made that promise.

Gates said that she and the other candidates in the room have said that whatever the town’s voters decide, if elected, they would abide by.

Candidates speak and articles are discussed

While there was a little confusion about who was running for which offices, once that was straighten out each of the candidates  —  with the exception of Paul Stoddard who did not attend the meeting —  was given a few minutes to talk about why they were running.

The two one-year positions are the only contested seats with four candidates: Susan Leader, Paul Stoddard, Robin Trask and Richard Griswold.

Melissa Gates is running unopposed for Chris Walker’s uncompleted three-year term.

Once the candidates had spoken, the articles that make up the meat of the decisions in front of voters were discussed in relatively quick time.

Voting by Australian ballot will take place from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 1 at Andover Town Hall, 953 Weston-Andover Road.

To view the informational meeting video produced by Okemo Valley TV, click here.



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