February 8, 2021
Members Present: ( Via phone or Zoom) Dan Harvey, Matthew Bykowski, Cynthia Browning, Tim Williams, and Todd Wilkins
Members Absent: None
Also Present: (Via phone or Zoom) Town Administrator- Nick Zaiac, Darren Marcy-Manchester Journal, Ali Elwell Zaiac, Brian Suslak, Larry Poletti, Hooper Pickering, Mardi Crane, Sharon Rosenthal, Scott Seidel, Denise Koller, Anthony Smith, Sally Manikian – BLY Hollow Representative, Thomas Williams, Olavi Wirkki, Joseph O’Dea- Town Attorney, June Onorato, Andy Nagle, Elizabeth Baker, “Nancy”, “David”, “Susan”, “Jeremy”, “Pauline”, and Janet Barry
The meeting was called to order at 6:02, by Mr. Harvey
Public Comments: Mr. Harvey first called for any public comments NOT related to the Red Mountain Trail project. There were none.
Minutes of the Meeting of Jan 25, 2021. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to accept as presented, the minutes of the previous meeting, Jan. 25, 2021. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed unanimously.
Public Comments: Red Mountain Land Acquisition Discussion: Mr. Harvey started the discussion with some background information on the Red Mountain Land Acquisition project. He said early last year the Board approved of investigating the potential purchase of the parcel of land in question. The Committee working on the project originally started as a sub committee of the Arlington Renewal Committee. The Committee had to come to the Board with feasibility information and all decisions about the project had to come through the Board. Mr. Harvey said he was taken aback when a fundraising letter from the Committee made it seem like a done deal. Mr. Pickering apologized if it had appeared that way. He said the Committee had been working with the Conservation Fund and the Land Trust group after having their deadline date extended in the fall, and they suggested they start fundraising and working with landowners for easement agreements. He said he met with several land owners, and later articles were a better representative of the project. Mr. Williams said the critical factor missing from the article was that the project was contingent on the Arlington Select Board voting to approve it. There were many residents attending the virtual meeting. Mr. Larry Poletti read from an email he had sent the Board and Mr. Zaiac, with his objections to the project. Some of his concerns were that the project would hurt property owners because of increased noise and traffic from non-property owners using the trails, a possible negative impact on hunters, having parked cars in the Wilcox Road turnaround that was designed for emergency vehicles and trucks to have room to turn their vehicles, perpetual liability and expense for the Town, and whether the impact to Act 250 has been considered. Mr. Poletti’s email and Act 250 information is available at:
Mr. Poletti also said he had created and circulated a petition that has received 57 signatures in one week, from residents that are also against the project, and could have obtained more signatures but was only made aware of the proposed project through newspaper articles very recently.
Sharon Rosenthal spoke about being a retired science teacher and avid hiker, and her feelings are that Flag Rock is hazardous and would be a liability to the Town. She asked Mr. Pickering how many easements from property owners have been obtained, and he said he has gotten “pledge easements”, but actual easements would have to be obtained by the Town. Sally Manikian, who represents the landowner, Bly Hollow, said the land was bought for conservation and if they can’t conserve it, it will be put for sale on open market. Mr. Harvey said that above 1,200-feet of elevation cannot be developed. Mardi Crane asked about a grant that was mentioned at one time, and Ms. Manikian answered that the grant was to fund acquisition of the land, and would fund the purchase only after the road is fixed for erosion and safety.
Brian Suslak, a resident of Wilcox Road, spoke of his concerns of the impact social media and the internet could have in making the area a major draw, and thereby risking gasoline leaching into soil and then into the Battenkill from having too much traffic and parked cars. He sited other towns that had been adversely affected by social media.
Scott Seidel, who owns property at the end of Wilcox Road, said how he is happy to let people hike on his property and would grant a license for a limited period of time, a trail pledge, if the concerns of his neighbors were addressed. He does not want to aggravate his neighbors and when he first spoke to Mr. Pickering two years ago, he did not know it would be a controversial project. He would not be comfortable signing an easement.
Denise Koller said she has lived in the area for two and half years and loves the tranquility. She said her road is not paved and more cars will make it more difficult. She also asked if having more people in the area to hike will benefit local businesses, and pointed out that the Town will have to pay for and be responsible for any clean up that would need to be done as a result of the increased use of the area.
Tom Williams said he has respect for the Town Road Crew, the Rescue Squad, and Fire Department, but that there are already needs in Town not being met, such as Pickering Bridge and the Covered Bridge that have planks fly into the air and he and neighbors have had to replace them, so he feels the Town should not take on new expenses. He said infrastructure repair and having aging fire trucks in need of replacement should be addressed before committing to additional expenses.
Olavi Wirkki said how he feels having access at the end of Wilcox Road that is designed to be an emergency and large truck turnaround is inappropriate.
At this point in the meeting, Mr. Harvey closed the meeting to public comments to start the Board discussion of the project. He also asked Town attorney, Joe O’Dea to weigh in with his findings. He said he is most concerned about license for a “period of time” being granted, and not an easement. The license can be revoked and the Town could own land with no ability to access the property.
Mr. Harvey asked each Board member for their thoughts. Ms. Browning said she supported moving forward to investigate the proposal in the past, the goal was valid, and the committee deserved the chance to raise the needed funds, but she doesn’t feel concerns, such as the cost of the Town maintaining the trails, and parking concerns have been resolved, and questions whether the Town can go forward with the project.
Mr. Bykowski said he also supported the investigation through the multiple meetings he has been a part of, but he is also concerned with licensing versus having an easement, thereby possibly losing access to the trails, and the long-term Town maintenance and safety requirements.
Mr. Wilkins said he echoes some of the same concerns about not having easements, that the Town should not own land it could potentially be unable access, but maybe the committee should be given the opportunity to allow them to address concerns.
Mr. Williams said he does not support the project, and the group has had two years to work on the project and he feels the time, energy and money could have been better used on the park. He said he feels Arlington has bigger fish to fry than maintaining this property that is not user friendly.
Mr. Harvey said he agrees the topography of this area limits its usage to a very small percentage of healthy, physically fit people who would be able to access the trails. He also sees red flags of what has happened in other areas, such as the Adirondacks, where massive amounts of people have destroyed the areas. He also is concerned that the land would not have guaranteed access. He said the Town is limited financially and he doesn’t see any long term, viable way to do the project and Town funds would be better directed elsewhere.
The Board discussed whether they were ready to vote at the meeting, or wait until the next Select Board meeting. It was agreed that the solutions to the concerns cannot be resolved in two weeks, and they owed it to everyone who has put time into the project to make a decision. Mr. Williams thanked Mr. Pickering and the committee for their time and energy.
Ms. Browning made a motion that the Arlington Select Board disapproves of the planned purchase of the Bly Hollow LLC Land Sale, also known as Red Mountain Trail Project, and disapproves of any further funding of the project and no money can be raised in the Select Board’s name for the project. Motion carried with Mr. Harvey, Mr. Bykowski, Ms. Browning, and Mr. Williams having affirmative votes, and Mr. Wilkins a negative vote.
Mr. Harvey thanked all who attended.
New Business: Land Use Administrator Position: Mr. Bykowski made a motion to approve the hire of Olavi Wirkki as Land Use Administrator. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Mr. Bykowski amended his motion to include Mr. Wirkki as Sign Administrator as well as Land Use Administrator. Mr. Wilkins seconded the amendment. Motion carried unanimously
Liquor License: Mr. Bykowski made a motion to approve 2nd Class Liquor License renewal as presented to sell malt and vinous beverages for Stewart’s Shop, 3784 VT Rt 7A, Arlington, VT. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed unanimously.
WD Warrants and Orders: Mr. Bykowski made a motion to approve WD#3 in the amount of $1,408.85. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed.
Warrants and Orders: Mr. Bykowski made a motion to approve Reappraisal Warrant # R21-1, in the amount of $5,200 to NEMRC for assessment services. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to approve Warrant # 3, General Fund, in the amount of $46,641.39. Highlights include salt from Apalache Marine for $10,556.80, Fairweather Consulting for $6,000 for the Arts and Enrichment project, outside auditor RH Smith, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield monthly insurance premiums. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed.
Town Administrator Report: Mr. Zaiac said he has been busy preparing for Town Meeting and getting the needed information for the Town Report, and had been preparing for tonight’s meeting. He said he has decided to not apply for the bike grant spoke of at the last meeting because there was more involved than need be for the number of benefits.
Other Business: Mr. Williams thanked Mr. Wirkki for stepping up and accepting the Land Use Administrator position.
Mr. Bykowski made a motion to adjourn. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed. Meeting adjourned at 8:02PM
Janet Barry, Recording Secretary
Cc: files, Town Clerk