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Opinion: Monkton official resigns in wake of gas pipeline events

I have decided to resign from my position on the Monkton Planning Commission.
I don’t think anything we do on the commission will have as big an impact on our town as the Vermont Gas Pipeline project. Yet we have so little opportunity to weigh in and be heard, either as an individual or a town, and the weighing in makes so little difference, especially in the Section 248 process. I hope someday the Legislature will change the process to give participation by citizens and municipalities more clout. I am so frustrated that the only way I can gain attention is by resigning.
My action is a loud protest to the actions of the Addison County Regional Planning Commission (ACRPC) in voting that Phase II of the Vermont Gas Pipeline complies with the Addison County Regional Plan. I believe the process followed by the ACRPC was flawed and one of Monkton’s delegates should have recused herself from the vote.
The process was flawed for two reasons. First, two of the ACRPC committees, Energy and Act 250/Section 248, voted that the project did not comply with their sections of the regional plan and those voting the project does comply ignored those votes. I also believe the biased speech given by the executive director of the ACRPC before the vote was totally inappropriate and detrimental to the commission process.
Second, Monkton delegate Thea Gaudette should have kept herself recused from the process and not voted. During the time the ACRPC was examining the proposal, Ms. Gaudette applied for a job at Vermont Gas, a situation she let be known and recused herself but then unrecused herself when Vermont Gas reported no job was available. In my opinion, it is not ethical for a person charged with a role in regulating a company to try to become an employee of that company. Regardless of whether an actual employment results, the act of applying for the job compromises the person’s ability to appear unbiased.
I also was deeply disturbed by the comments made by delegate Gaudette regarding Monkton’s town meeting nearly unanimous vote to “denounce the Vermont Gas project through Monkton.” Gaudette state the vote “was symbolic and about Phase I” and she did not believe the Town Meeting Day vote was representative of the entire town because she believed that many residents who support the pipeline project were not present at town meeting.
I believe anybody who was there that day considered the vote as a way of trying to support those residents who have been victimized by Vermont Gas’ illegal and bullying tactics in dealing with them. I would have thought the message would have been clear to all our elected officials to do what you can to force Vermont Gas to halt this kind of behavior. Applying for a job with the company doesn’t do that.
The idea that an elected (Gaudette also serves on the Monkton Planning Commission) and appointed official (she also serves on the Development Review Board) would question the authority of a legal town meeting vote based on the supposition that supporters didn’t attend, forces me to realize she is unwilling to accept a process that produces a result in disagreement with her own positions. How about the votes on the other articles at town meeting? How about close votes in recent times such as the vote on zoning regulations? Should we disregard that vote because enough people to defeat it stayed home? How about the ACRPC delegates who were absent for the Vermont Gas vote?
Our process may not be perfect but it is a democratic process and to have an official questioning the result based on their own guess hurts the entire system. Thea Gaudette owes Monkton a full explanation of her actions and to demonstrate how she will avoid such conflicts in the future.
To be sure, the blame does not ride on her shoulders alone. Vermont Gas’ games of trespassing, calculated release of misinformation, threats of eminent domain, lack of good faith, incompetence, etc., have been so damaging to some of our fellow Monkton residents. The prospect of having a gas pipeline rammed close to a cherished homestead by a callous, greedy crew is ghastly. I so resent Vermont Gas causing these deep divisions in our town just for the earning a profit for their owners and investors. The cost of their improprieties, criminal acts and mistakes should be borne by those owners and not ratepayers.
I believe the commission has accomplished a great deal during my tenure with both an up-to-date town plan and zoning regulations for the first time in many years. We also welcomed back former zoning administrator Ken Wheeling, whose efforts have significantly improved the organization and professionalism of the office.
Sam Burr
Monkton

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