Montpelier approves articles
MONTPELIER — It was a clean sweep for four articles on the Capital City ballot Tuesday, with a controversial bond vote for a public parking garage passing by healthy margin, and other articles passing by even bigger margins.
In preliminary results, Article 1 for the $10.5 million bond for the garage passed 2,459-1,877.
Article 2, a $16.75 million bond vote to upgrade aging infrastructure at the city sewer plant, passed handsomely 3,770-390.
Article 3, to seek a charter change to allow non-U.S. citizens to vote in municipal elections, passed 2,857-1,488, making Montpelier the first city or town in Vermont to pass the measure that failed in Burlington in 2015 and in Winooski earlier this year.
Article 4, to seek a charter change banning the sale of single-use plastics, such as shopping bags, straws and food containers, passed 3,322-930.
Speaking after the polls closed, Mayor Anne Watson said she was delighted with the outcome of voting on the articles and thanked the people of Montpelier for their input and participation.
“I’m just so grateful to everyone who came out to vote and there was an incredible turnout,” Watson said. “I think it’s really valuable in the way democracy is supposed to work.
“I’m really grateful for the way all of the articles turned out and I’m really exciting to move towards making provisions for these things. Whether people voted for or against the parking garage, that input from the public has been incredibly valuable and we have a better project as a result of people’s engagement.”
City Manager Bill Fraser also welcomed the outcome of polling.
“I think, first of all, it was great that there was large turnout with over 3,300 votes cast,” Fraser said. “It’s great that the city came out and had their voices heard; it’s an important thing.
“I think the garage, which was the most-widely discussed, passed by a good margin, so they were clear about what they wanted. We appreciate everyone’s point of view and we will move on,” he added.
Fraser said he was also encouraged by the overwhelming support for the $16.75 million bond vote for the wastewater treatment facility upgrade.
“It was a lot of money, but I think people really understood the environmental benefits of it,” Fraser said.
Fraser noted that Articles 3 and 4 still require legislative approval.
“Just because it passed doesn’t means it become effective yet; it’s got to be approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor before it becomes law,” Fraser said.
Supporters and opponents of the parking garage were outside City Hall Tuesday morning with signs, displays and campaign literature.
Sarah DeFelice, owner of the Bailey Road fashion store on Main Street and president of the Montpelier Business Association, was holding a sign that urged residents to vote for Article 1.
“I’m a supporter of Article 1 because it will bring more economic development to downtown Montpelier,” DeFelice said. “It’s not just a parking garage; it’s the gateway to more improvement to the downtown, such as a hotel, and it will provide parking to more of the housing that’s being built.
“This is a time for Montpelier to move forward because a lot of surrounding towns have already done this, and we’re getting left behind in that way. Everything that we do to keep our downtown vibrant would be awesome and this is just the start to that,” she added.
Chris Turley, a banker and municipal finance consultant, said he also supported Article 1.
“For me, it boils down to the investment in Montpelier that’s been sorely needed for a number of years,” Turley said. “We’re a wonderful downtown and we have an active community, but we seem to have paused and it’s getting a little tired down here.
Les Blomberg, who runs the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse in Montpelier, said he was opposed to Article 1 on the garage.
“The issue I’m concerned about is the parking garage was so rushed, Blomberg said. “We won’t even have a proofed design for another 45 days. The (Design Review Board) had the final hearing on it last night, and it’s too late. It’s kind of like voting for a blank check because we don’t even have a design that we know for sure about.”
Laura Rose Abbott, another opponent of the garage added: “I’m still upset about last night (the DRB meeting), and everything being tabled and separated, but hasn’t been determined, discussed, identified, and how the Development Review Board and the design review process is not doing its due diligence.”
Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Research Institute, was holding a sign Tuesday morning in support of Article 4, calling for a ban on single-use plastics in Montpelier.
VPIRG was supporting Article 4.
City Clerk John Odum said voting on Tuesday had been constant and higher than usual.
“It’s been very steady with higher traffic than usual; there hasn’t been this high traffic since the last general (election),” Odum said.