Here we vote again! With the possibility of separation more real than ever, I’m saying YES to MERGE vote from the perspective of a TOV resident. As always, I am speaking solely for myself and not on behalf of the Planning Commission, of which I am a member. Thanks for reading.
I want to address two things: (1) The idea of unfair representation and the idea that this can lead to radical changes in ordinances; (2) The idea that the TOV-TIV boundary line is the line by which to carve up the town.
1- Something I’ve heard and read a lot is the idea that a post-merger board would be unfairly stacked in favor of the Village. A look at the proposed charter shows this isn’t true. The former Trustees will be responsible for Village-specific matters in the transition year, while the former Selectboard will be responsible for the same matters they are now. The interim board can propose and recommend policies that MAY be implemented by the elected board after the transition year. The idea that the interim body can put into effect sudden and comprehensive changes is not supported by this charter or by personal experience.
In changing or making any town ordinance, the relevant body has to hold hearings to take public comment. In my work on the Planning Commission, this often means multiple hearings as we incorporate feedback and work on language. An example: our work on Essex Town Center zoning - which directly affected only a small portion of the overall town! - took multiple years and constant public feedback. So again, I find it highly unlikely that sweeping changes to the town-wide status quo will be made in the first year.
2- I’d also like to share a map with you: http://vermont.us.censusviewer.com/client. Please zoom in to Essex (the whole town) and see if you can guess where the line is between the Village and the Town Outside The Village. It’s not so easy, is it?
Now let’s think about the voting results for merger in both 2006 and 2021 for the TOV. Somewhere between a quarter and a third of TOV voters supported the merger each time. What if those voters are located in a more developed area of town near the Village, merger fails, and (eventually) the Junction votes to separate? Do pro-merger TOV voters petition to join the new City of Essex Junction? Do they petition to create a new village within the rump Town of Essex? Separation along the 1892 line will not solve the problems of taxation, representation, and services; it will lay the groundwork for future problems. Merger, on the other hand, lets us deal with the facts on the ground as they are today, not based on a boundary fixed when Grover Cleveland had just been elected president.