CAVENDISH, Vt. – The Cavendish Selectboard April 11 meeting began with their annual organizational meeting, approving all town positions without debate, and then spent the bulk of their time discussing updates to the Energy Chapter in the Town Plan and town highway concerns following the recent challenging mud season.
Cavendish Regional Planning Commissioner Etienne Ting discussed the “Energy Chapter,” which is nearing completion but has been in the process of being revised for over two years.
According to Ting, the energy chapter draft is heavily based on the Regional Planning Commission’s energy plan from 2018 and includes Vermont’s “enhanced energy” plan which includes three State goals: achieve 25% renewable energy consumption by 2025, 40% renewable energy use by 2035, and 90% renewable energy use by 2050.
The incentive for incorporating the states wide-scope renewable energy goals is that the state will allow for “substantial deference” to any town when approving any Act 248 projects. Meaning, if you put the State’s goals into the Town Plan, you’ll get an upper hand in an act 248 proceeding. It is under Act 248 that the state approves energy projects.
Ting said that the biggest challenge for Cavendish is mainly transportation when looking at hitting the 90% goal in 2050. He said it would be difficult to replace fossil fuel cars to achieve that goal. “That’s the struggle we have.” He said that Cavendish had already achieved about 98% toward meeting the 2035 energy goals.
When members of the Selectboard questioned what ramifications there would be if they don’t meet the goals, LaBelle said that the town can’t focus on how they’re going to be enforced and that there is no enforcement mechanism involved. He also said that many of the changes can’t be tracked, such as weatherization or purchasing of electric vehicles. He said the Energy Chapter will just state the goal, and how they are trying to achieve it.
The Energy Chapter language is based on regional plan and on other surrounding towns since it doesn’t make sense to go out and write something that hasn’t already been approved, said Labelle.
As for next steps, Ting said the Planning Commission is now trying to resolve differences of opinion on some of the language, and, once resolved, they’ll be incorporated into the Energy Chapter which will then be approved by Regional Planning, the State having delegated the authority to approve to them. It will then be presented to the Board for amendment to the Town Plan.
Town Manager Brendan McNamara gave an update on the town roads, saying that, for the most part, the town has gotten through a difficult mud season. He thanked the town crews for their work and the community for their patience. They will now begin grading and doing some serious ditching work, particularly on David Road, Brook Road, and a number of culverts that need to be replaced.
The new sheriff deputy has been increasingly stationed in Cavendish village and in front of the elementary school to address concerns of speeding on Route 131. Regional planning will be putting down speed strips in both locations in the coming weeks to being to gather speed data, a first step if any changes to speed limits were to be considered. McNamara also said that VTrans will supply portable electronic speed signs.
McNamara is looking to establish a committee to determine how the town will spend it $450,000 in American Recovery Plan Act funding. He would like the committee to be made up of community members and two Selectboard members, saying he wants as much input from community members as possible in an effort to try and spread the money as wide across town as possible and not just into water, sewer, and storm water upgrades.
The next Cavendish Selectboard meeting is on Monday, May 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Cavendish Town Office.