DALTON — While they disagreed on whether emergency temporary zoning should be adopted at the upcoming special town meeting, voters at an informational hearing Tuesday were generally of one mind in not voicing support for a landfill being built in their community, which is the goal of the zoning initiative.
Specifically, what Jon Swan and like-minded residents want is to adopt the zoning and to use the regulations to put the kibosh on the plans of Rutland, Vt.-based Casella Waste Systems to construct a landfill on property that it would purchase from Doug “Chick” Ingerson.
Representatives of Casella, which owns and operates the North Country Environmental Services landfill in neighboring Bethlehem, have previously said that the NCES landfill — which accepts waste from some 150 New Hampshire cities and towns and also from out of state — is running out of capacity and that the Dalton site is, geographically, an ideal one for a new landfill.
Swan, who founded the Save Forest Lake website, said the Casella landfill would be upstream from Forest Lake, meaning leachates could contaminate groundwater and also affect surface water.
He said Casella would bring some 100 trash-hauling trucks to the Dalton landfill daily and the landfill would have a negative impact on regional tourism and property values.
Opponents of emergency temporary zoning have accused Swan of using “scare tactics” ahead of the July 30 special town meeting.
On Tuesday evening, during a standing-room only hearing in the municipal building gymnasium, some of them proudly pointed out that Dalton is the special place it is because there is no zoning, a distinction that places the town among just 2% of all New Hampshire municipalities.
Before Christine Ordinetz, the hearing moderator, opened the floor to speakers — first residents, then property owners and then the general public — Carl Lindquist, who chairs the Dalton Planning Board, said the emergency temporary zoning was “absolute bare bones” in terms of the volume of regulation.
He and Selectman Jo Beth Dudley said that the zoning would be temporary; would expire unless renewed by the town meeting in 2021; and that existing uses were “grandfathered.”
Ingerson, who owns Chick’s Sand and Gravel off Route 116 in Bethlehem, which is where Casella trucks would access the Dalton landfill, said that “the zoning we’ve had for years works fine,” adding that “land is worth a lot more without zoning than with.”
Ed Craxton, a former Dalton town moderator, said that by voting in favor of temporary zoning, “you and I will have a say about the place where we live and call home” rather than an out-of-state company having that say.
Swan said the emergency that necessitated bringing in the temporary zoning “is the 180-acre landfill” that Casella is proposing.
Ordinetz asked Swan and many speakers after him, to refrain from talking about Casella and to limit their remarks to zoning only.
When he got his chance to speak, Adam Finkel sai dthat everyone of the more than 150 people who came out for Tuesday’s hearing was there because of what Casella wants to do in Dalton.
One resident said while “nobody wants a dump next to them,” neither did she want “anybody telling me how to use my land.”
That sentiment was expressed several more times during the hearing.
Marti Faulkner, who sold real estate in the area for a quarter century, said that unlike some speakers asserted at Tuesday’s hearing, her experience has been that “most people want zoning.”
The reason why 98 percent of the state has zoning, she said, is because “it’s a really good thing.”
Chris Cyr, the majority owner of Team O’Neil Rally School — which he identified as Dalton’s largest employer — said the school came to Dalton because of its lack of zoning.
Before the two-hour plus hearing on the emergency temporary zoning ended both Ordinetz and Dudley, citing federal and state laws on the disposal of solid waste, cautioned that the adoption of the measure would not necessarily ensure that a landfill could not and would not be built in Dalton.