Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sustainability in Montpelier, Vermont

Here in Montpelier we've been having a debate for several years over how and whether to develop a large parcel of land, adjacent to residential neighborhoods and close to downtown, to meet the community's needs for housing and open space. These are the comments of my son Adam, a committed environmentalist and lifelong resident of Montpelier, and he asked me to post them for you all to read.


MY THOUGHTS ON SABIN’S PASTURE
Adam McCullough


It must be admitted that all things are connected. This is a fact of nature as well as a fact of the economy and culture. Therefore the actions taken to develop Sabin's pasture will indubitably have large impacts on the rest of Montpelier and indeed the rest of Vermont. It is folly to think that a part can change without affecting the whole. This interrelated nature of our town is the reason why I believe it is completely justified for the people of Montpelier to have a say in what goes on inside it.

That being said, here is my input and I hope that it is taken to heart. Though the effects aren't obvious, the deforestation of Sabin's Pasture has had many. This process of development has already taken its environmental toll. The equipment used to complete the project and the project itself have caused massive amounts of soil erosion, which not only reduces the quality of soil on the pasture itself, but harms wildlife habitat, and clouds the nearby Winooski with dirt that chokes out fish populations and other life forms found in the river. The land is changed visually affecting the views from countless locations in Montpelier.

The issue has had many social effects as well. I know from personal conversations with my friends that those who saw that land as their backyard feel a sense of being robbed. I've heard one person say "it’s like our childhood is gone now" This isn't the only sentiment either. I'm sure that other Montpelierites who own large tracts of land are afraid of being told what they can and can't do on their own land. Also the issue has taken tremendous amounts of time and effort from the city council and the zoning board and the housing committee and from all other interested parties. Obviously, even though this project has made very little progress towards its ultimate form: a housing development in Sabin' Pasture, it has already had far reaching environmental and social effects.

At this point I do not believe honestly that Sabin's Pasture can be "saved" in the sense implied by the bumper stickers, however it can be used as a method of saving Vermont. Too much of this country has been commercialized, franchised, advertised, and melted down. The United States is called a cultural melting pot, but from all I've seen I would more closely compare it to a crucible. Cowboys get their hats and belt buckles at the Gap these days I'm afraid. I firmly believe that the reason we live in Vermont is because it is not like the rest of the country. And we don't want it to be.

My vision for this development could be thought of as a new declaration of independence. A declaration of energy independence and a protest against the rampant consumption that has become the American way. I'm referring to a sustainably minded, community oriented development that reduces consumption in a big way and gives business to Local Environmentally conscious contractors.

There should be solar panels on all the roofs and windmills on the hill tops to not only power the people of Sabin's Pasture, but also to develop Montpelier without raising our energy consumption. Also each home will be equipped with energy star appliances, solar water heating, hay bail constructed walls so the energy used to heat the houses will stay inside the houses. Motion sensors for the light switches so when no one is around the lights will be off. Composting toilets so the development won't need to be attached to the sewers. There should be room for a garden in each yard, and a big meeting hall where there can be dances, concerts, banquets, and meetings. There will be a bulk foods catalog distributed to all the residents so they can order what they need and then pick it up from the meeting hall when it is brought there by a truck. It would be better to have one truck drive in, than for all of the residents' cars to trek to the store.

And the construction of the place will be an opportunity for education, allowing Montpelier students to study the process and help with the project (especially useful since Mr. Brown's tech ed position was cut from the middle school)

And, there would be a grand playground. The reincarnation of Union Elementary's fun zone, built by volunteers and enjoyed by all for years to come. A great use for tires that would otherwise go to waste.

You might say that this development would encroach on personal liberty, but I would strongly disagree. There are plenty of places in this country where you could live in a state of disconnection from the land. There are many states and many houses where you can live in ways that harm the earth, and the surrounding community. Therefore to develop in a sustainable way, will be not an encroachment, but an opportunity.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Brad said...

Hi there;
Your son's somewhat disjointed letter to the Times Argus (A Green Vision for Sabin's) caught my attention. While I agree that the Aja and Zorzi property should be
developed to enhance the future of Montpelier, I find fault with your seemingly dreamy and Sociallistic visions. Your assesment of large amounts of erosion effecting fluvial wildlife has not been substantiated.I've looked down on the pasture from my home, since 1967 and know it well.Rather than spouting a bunch of verbal garbage,please use facts,not unproved presumptions.
How about giving the rightfull owners,caretakers, and longtime tax payer's the right to decide the future of "their" property?
Oh........what the hell has Cowboys buying hat and spurs at the Gap got to do with it?
I commend young people like you, for taking an interest in the future of our community.
Thank you!

A decendant of John Senter Esq.
Fourth Mayor of Montpelier and fourth generation Montpelier area resident.

Brad Senter

February 07, 2006 11:25 AM  
Anonymous Adam McCullough said...

Brad,
Thanks for keeping me in check. While I have no proof that the erosion is a problem, I assure you that it is. The ground is torn up by logging and machinery, thereby uprooting the soil's support system, and exposing the topsoil. It is a simple cause and effect, situation, the snow will melt, the rain will fall, and those will both occur long before there is any chance to recover the stability or fertility of the soil. Soil is an organism according to Dr. DeLuca of the University of Montana, the plants that live in the soil depend on it, and the soil depends on the plants. Secondly, what is downhill from the pasture? The Winooski. Many fluvial fish species depend on pebble like river bottoms with many gaps between the pebbles for them to make their nests and lay their eggs, if the dirt from sabin's pasture settles into the river bottom, those fish will be out of luck.
As for giving the "rightful owners, caretakers, and longtime tax payer's" control over what happens in my home... I think it is obvious that I have a vested interest in what goes on.
The Cowboy problem relates to the way of life that we claim to have in the United States which has actually become a front. Commercialism, and 'progress' has been the cause of a ton of problems in the U.S. Including the development of the frontier, the murder and subjugation of countless people and cultures and thus, the compromise of the American Character. Vast expanses of the country are covered in Strip Malls and I want to keep Vermont Green.

peace
adam

February 09, 2006 2:09 PM  
Anonymous Brad Senter said...

Hello Adam;
Your response sounds like your a member of the MONTPELIER ELITE CLUB? Am I to assume that you would have Montpelier stay stagnate, with no new building development? Do you have an "save the community for ME", or a N.I.M.B.Y. agenda?
I can "assure YOU" what little
soil disruption, impacted on the property will turn
into plant life by the first of June. Further
more new plant life in the area covered by the tree's, will now spring up with ground cover, brush, saplings and in 20 years second grouth timber. That will more than compensate for the logging operation. Land that has been well kept, is a lot more resilent than people who have not actually worked it believe. How do I know?
I grew up in a construction family.
Over my early years my father and I farmed, we stripped many meadows and pastures of top soil to build farm and fire protection ponds. We sripped many fields to develope gravel pits. We harvested tree's.
We developed new country roads and home sights. All of this in the Winooski flowage area. Not once did what we did see any negative impact on the streams. In fact just the opposite. In 1954 when I graduated from Montpelier High
school, the Winooski and many of it's feeder stream's were pretty much void of fish. As a fisherman
we now have more fish than ever in these streams.
Admittedly much is due to sewerage managment.
We also have more Deer,Bear,Moose,and other wild life, and forest lands than we had 50 years ago.
We should know when the Aja's were using Sabin's "MEADOW" for farming, the effluent was more damaging than logging.(By the way, the property is mostly meadow land, not pasture. It's primary use was the production of crops,with the very upper regions used for pasture,)
It's time to shed our gloom and doom outlook, and have positive view's for the future!
I feel a need to move on, with new young families, and housing in Montpelier. There's still time and room in such a very small City, to make this happen.
Will new housing impact Sabin's surrounds? Of course. But the rewards of development will offset
the detriment.I have problems with the city planning board changing the rules governing the owners selling their property. This is their legacy and retirement heritage.The city should not become a one sided bargainer in the owner's quest to sell.

Though ALL THINGS in Montpelier and Vermont are not.."CONNECTED"... (def.-linked together, COHRENTLY or LOGICALLY)
we should have verbal intercouse on
it's outcome.

Have a nice day Adam.
Thanks for posting an old mans
concerns. God... I can only hope, your generation will lead us in the right direction! And please...NO straw houses! In the old day's I had to bank our house with straw...not a great idea....and remember... THE WOLF!
Brad Senter, Montpelier

February 10, 2006 1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are talking as though a sustainable and ecologically minded development would hurt Montpelier. I am not a member of any kind of club and I'm in fact more interested in having the impacts in 'my back yard' than anywhere else.
It isn't that I hate the idea of development. It's that I firmly believe that we have a responsibility to develop wisely. And since it is indeed my back yard I feel like I have a say in it.
Brad, you also imply that your actions of clearing land and farming have improved fisheries in vermont. In fact, there are many biologists, volunteers, and state funding that goes to this effort. I don't doubt you're right that the fish populations are doing well, but Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department may have had a major role in that. This is from their website,

"Land and water use practices have degraded habitat conditions in our lakes and streams and caused populations of some species to decline to dangerously low levels. "

"Management actions such as fishing regulations, fish stocking, nuisance species control, and habitat improvement are examples of active measures routinely taken..."

Fish restoration didn't happen on its own. It took thoughtful activism and science, which is just what i am proposing for the development of Sabin's.

Again, I am NOT anti-housing. All I want is that housing to fend for itself with solar/wind power, efficient insulation, and community building.

Do you disagree with these ideas? Because I'm not an elitist.

peace
adam

February 22, 2006 1:35 PM  
Anonymous brad said...

Hello again Adam;
Well said. Even tho we probably don't agree on some of your idea's on how to achive a solution to the Aja-Zorzi property, our views of the final outcome are admittedly closer than one might think. My main concern.... the rightfull owners are not screwed out of their hard earned retirement income, funded by the sale of the property. That would certainly be a traversty to them and other property owners in the same situation.
It's realy pretty sad, when one can't sell his property without getting the ground rules constantly changed by the City and State. The intervention of ner'do gooders have certainly not help thier cause either.

Conservation is a wonderfull thing. I'm retired, but work just about every day, restoring and preserving
elderly items for the enjoyment of future generations.
Best wishes to you;
Brad

February 24, 2006 12:35 PM  
Blogger seshupunter said...

Hi Iam new this site. How about giving the rightfull owners. caretakers. and lontime tax payers the right to decisdse the future of "their" property? Oh........what the hell has cowboys buying hat and spurs at the gap got to do with it?

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