DALTON — By a small but significant margin, voters at a special town meeting on Tuesday evening adopted emergency temporary zoning that they hope can be used to prevent the construction of a landfill in the town.
According to the town, 154 voters cast a “yes” ballot to adopt emergency temporary zoning, while 129 voters said “no” to the measure, which will remain in effect for a year and a half and can be either extended or removed by voters at the 2021 town meeting.
The town said anyone who is interested in serving on the Zoning Board to send a letter of interest and qualifications to the Dalton Board of Selectmen.
At the 2019 town meeting, residents, including Jon Swan, learned that Rutland, Vt.-based Casella Waste Systems was eyeing a 180-acre parcel off Route 116 for a landfill.
Casella, which has not yet filed any applications in regard to a Dalton landfill, owns and operates the North Country Environmental Services landfill in neighboring Bethlehem. That facility is running out of room and Casella officials have previously said that the Dalton site — which is currently owned by Doug “Chick” Ingerson, who operates a sand and gravel business there — is ideal.
Opponents of that plan, including Swan, who founded the Save Forest Lake website, said the Casella landfill in Dalton would release leachate that could contaminate groundwater and also affect surface water; that it would bring some 100 trash-hauling trucks into town daily; and that the landfill would have a negative impact on regional tourism and property values.
At a July 23 informational hearing, speakers were roughly split on adopting emergency temporary zoning, with critics noting that Dalton has flourished for many years precisely because it has no zoning regulations, while supporters said it was a protection against unwanted development. While divided on emergency temporary zoning, the overwhelming consensus of speakers was that they did not want a landfill in Dalton. After the counting of votes in Tuesday’s special town meeting, Swan, on the Save Forest Lake website announced “We did it!”
But he quickly cautioned that, “Mind you, this is the first battle in what could be a long, drawn-out war akin to the Northern Pass fight. We must prevail, however, as there is simply too much to lose should Casella be permitted to create such an environmentally-irresponsible development.”
Casella did not immediately reply Wednesday to an e-mail seeking comment.
Swan said the aim of adopting emergency temporary zoning was “never to curb individual property rights and freedom, but to protect what we all have in Dalton from a predatory out-of-state corporation that sought to prey on our vulnerability.”
He appealed to those voters who said “no” to zoning, saying he hoped they “will join our ranks to fight the landfill development. We’re all in this together as we work to build a Dalton free from Casella’s influence (and garbage) as well as others who might do harm to our wonderful community. Please begin attending town meetings and get involved.”