New Haven selectboard candidates say solar is top issue facing town

NEW HAVEN — Four candidates will face off for two seats on the New Haven selectboard in an unusually busy election season. The races will be decided by Australian ballot on Town Meeting Day, March 3.
Charles Roy and Jim Walsh are vying for a three-year seat, while Susan Smiley and Steve Dupoise Sr. are competing for a two-year seat. Roy, the incumbent for the two-year seat, is seeking the three-year being vacated by Roger Boise.
The candidates come from diverse backgrounds and stated different reasons for running, but all said they wanted to tackle an issue that has been a hot topic in New Haven over the past year — the flood of solar array applications within the town, and what the town can do to control its energy future.
Charles Roy, who turned 55 on Feb. 7, has lived in New Haven since 1986. He was first elected to the selectboard in 2012 and in the 1990s served as a town lister.
He said he is proud of the budgets the selectboard has produced in his tenure, and said he doesn’t want to spend a dollar more than the town needs. Roy said in the wake of all the solar array proposals in town, the selectboard has worked to improve the town plan to include specific rules on solar development.
“I want to make sure we have a say in what’s going on and make sure we get our fair share of taxes from them,” Roy said.
He said he wants solar developers to be responsive to aesthetic concerns of neighboring landowners, and that the selectboard should encourage Addison County legislators to take up the issue in Montpelier.
Roy is also the president of the Addison County Farm Bureau and previously worked at Agri-Mark. He currently works in insurance for Wells Fargo.
Jim Walsh has lived in New Haven for 20 years and served on the town’s planning commission for the past 14. He earns a living as a farming and dairy consultant.
He said he was proud to help draft the town’s first home-based business zoning regulations, which allow residents to run a business out of a non-residential building on their property.
“It also allows for a small home business to have a small number of employees, making it easier for a resident to be self-employed in New Haven,” Walsh said.
As a selectman, Walsh said he would work to preserve the working rural landscape and diverse agriculture that New Haven residents and farmers cherish.
He also said he’d like to implement his idea of a solar park, within which several small solar arrays could be built on a single plot, instead of spread around town. He sees the plan as a compromise between solar developers who see New Haven as a prime location for arrays, and residents, some of whom oppose arrays for aesthetic reasons.
“In order for this to become a reality the Legislature would need to amend a law and a town would need to identify — with property owners’ and residents’ input — areas in town that are suitable,” Walsh said.
Walsh, who has been active in solar issues in town, went to the Statehouse last week with other town residents to testify before the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee about a proposed solar siting bill.
“This bill, when passed, should result in many positive outcomes for property owners, neighbors, towns, developers and tourists,” Walsh said.
In addition to solar, Walsh said he’d work to rein in education and municipal spending wherever possible.
“We need to be aware as a selectboard of the total town and school tax burden of New Haven residents, and strive to keep the town budget affordable for town residents,” he said.
Susan Smiley, 68, has lived in New Haven since 1974. She said she’s dedicated to preserving the town’s agricultural heritage and keeping land in use for farming.
“This county is vibrant in terms of the amount of land that’s in a growing diversity of agricultural uses,” Smiley said, adding that she hopes the town treads carefully when it comes to commercial development.
On the solar issue, Smiley said she strongly supports the work of the planning commission to strengthen the town’s recommended specifications for solar projects. She also supports Jim Walsh’s idea to create a designated zone in town in which many solar projects could be placed, to limit aesthetic harm in other parts of the town.
“I’m very interested in the solar farm idea as a way to be a magnet for solar projects that might otherwise come to town,” she said.
Smiley has never occupied a town post, but is an alternate on the Addison County Regional Planning Commission and town conservation commission. She ran for the Legislature in 2014, but lost to incumbent and fellow New Haven resident Harvey Smith.
She said the selectboard has a history of protecting the interests of citizens, and she believes she would be a good addition to it.
“As a New Haven citizen, I think it has been a well-governed town, and I want to run in that tradition,” Smiley said.
Steve Dupoise Sr. said fellow residents have encouraged him to run for a number of years. He’s no stranger to public service — he spent nine years on the Beeman Elementary School board and has been the town health officer for more than two decades. Now 61, Dupoise has lived in New Haven his entire life.
He also said solar was an issue he wanted to tackle if voters give him the opportunity.
“Obviously the solar panels are a huge issue in our town and a lot of towns in the county and state,” he said. “They seem to go any place they want to go, without any input from the town, and I don’t think that’s correct.”
Dupoise said towns around the state didn’t anticipate the boom in solar array applications around the state. More than a dozen were proposed in New Haven in the last year alone.
“This popped up and no one saw it coming,” he said. “Everyone is struggling to get a handle on it.”
Dupoise said he’d be a good selectman because he’s familiar with budgeting, as he previously owned County Tire in Middlebury and also ran other businesses.
He added that voters should choose him because he will have an open mind and be responsive to residents’ concerns.
“I’m willing to listen to all of the townspeople,” Dupoise said. “I would be a voice of residents of New Haven.”
Zach Despart may be reached at [email protected].
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the current seats held by Boise and Roy.

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