essex town office 81 main

The Town of Essex municipal offices located at 81 Main Street.

Before turning to a lengthy agenda, the Essex Selectboard went through its annual reorganization process Monday night by electing within itself a chair, vice chair, and clerk.

Selectman Patrick Murray made the lone motion heard for the chair position – that being for Andy Watts.

“Yikes,” Watts said with a chuckle after Murray’s motion was unanimously approved and Unified Manager Evan Teich passed off direction of the meeting. But Watts then went immediately into action and heard a motion, second, and unanimous approval of Murray being vice chair for the second-straight year.

In her first meeting on the selectboard, Tracey Delphia was elected as the board’s clerk through another unanimous vote after Watts explained that the role has historically gone to the newest member.

Watts then circled back to his selection, saying, “I’m looking forward to working with all of you in the coming year – not just the officers but all the others. I should have said ‘thank you’ first instead of ‘yikes,’ although I am a little terrified of this whole situation. But we’ll get through it; I’m sure we’ll get through it.”

Here are three takeaways from the rest of the meeting.

1. Liquor licenses

Acting as Board of Liquor Control commissioners, the selectboard approved renewals and new applications for six restaurants and stores in Essex after receiving a memo from the police department which reported conducting records reviews of each business and finding no concerns.

First Class licenses in Vermont allow for the service of beer and wine while a Third Class License allows for the service of spirits. A Second Class License allows a store to sell beer and wine for consumption off the premises and to export vinous beverages out of the state.

Both The Food Bar and Railroad & Main had their First and Third Class licenses, as well as an Outdoor Consumption Permit (OCP), renewed while Essex Junction Grand Buffet had its First Class License renewed. The Scale Essex received new approval for a First Class License, and Barnyard - Essex – a second location for the pizzeria in South Burlington that’s expected to open in early May – was approved for a First, Third, and OCP.

The Champlain Farms locations on Pearl Street and Jericho Road were both granted renewals for their Second Class licenses.

2. Town/Village Storm Water Coordinating Committee

The selectboard discussed whether it wants the town to reconstitute and repurpose the Stormwater Coordinating Committee along with the Village of Essex Junction Board of Trustees.

A memo from Public Works Director Dennis Lutz said there has been little need for the committee over the last two years since it had already met the primary goal outlined in a policy which was adopted after the committee was formed in 2013. Since then, three of the four Flow Restoration Plan projects identified as part of an overall community plan have been completed with the fourth being scheduled for construction in late 2022.

However, the town and village have been directed to require reduction in the amount of phosphorus that’s discharged into Lake Champlain from each community through July 2018 changes made to requirements in the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) MS4 Phase 2 General Permit – aiming to control water pollution through small municipal separate stormwater systems.

“But now it’s a different ballgame,” Lutz said Monday. “Now we’ve got to kind of recalibrate, look at phosphorus, look at things that have to change in some of our zoning ordinances that relate to stormwater.”

Lutz said the policy was rewritten to reflect the new direction for the committee.

In addition to looking at reconstituting and repurposing the committee, Lutz presented the opportunity for the selectboard to be represented on it.

Along with Lutz and other staff members, the Stormwater Coordinating Committee is comprised of a selectboard member, a town representative appointed by the selectboard, a village trustee, and a village representative appointed by the trustees.

Lutz’s memo said George Tyler will continue serving as the trustee’s representative while Max Levy and Harris Abbott are willing to continue serving as the town and village representatives, respectively. However, Michael Plageman, who’s no longer on the selectboard, was the board’s representative to the committee when it was last active.

Delphia expressed an interest in serving as the selectboard’s representative and was unanimously approved to do so – along with the committee’s revised policy.

3. Cannabis committee

As state law currently requires municipalities to vote for the allowance of retail cannabis businesses, Essex is planning to form an internal board or committee to research the issue, conduct outreach with the community, and make recommendations to the governing boards. The proposed group would consist of a selectboard member, a village trustee, a police officer or representative, either the unified or deputy manager, both the town and village’s community development director, and a representative from each the Economic Development Commission, both planning commissions, and both zoning boards.

Selectboard members Dawn Hill-Fleury and Vince Franco both said they would like to be on the committee, but Hill-Fleury conceded after hearing the reasoning for Franco’s interest.

“This is an issue that’s kind of near-and-dear to my heart,” said Franco. “I had a herniated disc, and without cannabis, I don’t know where I’d be. So it’s something I’m really passionate about and something I’d really like to help bring into the community.” His fellow board members unanimously approved his appointment.

Other notes

  • The selectboard entered into an executive session to discuss pending or probable civil litigation and possible action to execute an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees contract for 2021-24. The board came out of the executive session and authorized Teich to execute the latter.
  • Included in the reading file was Delphia’s signed resignation letter for her seat on the Essex Zoning Board of Adjustment, citing her election to the selectboard as her reason for doing so.
  • Included in the consent agenda were requests for the selectboard to support staff’s applications for grant funding. The applications seek awards from VTrans for reimbursement of up to $452,560 for three projects: rehabilitating a cross culvert on Old Susie Wilson Road and work to be done on both Essex Way and Old Stage Road.

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