VT Rail

By Joan Lenes

We are lucky to live in a community where neighbors are concerned for one another, our environment, and our business community. We want to be informed and we want to play a role in decision-making. This is not always an easy process or one that turns out the way we hoped or expected. My belief is that we stay at the table and work toward the things that are important to us. I am approaching our conversation with the town and Vermont Rail System (VRS) in this way.

I see that there are multiple avenues to address the situation we have before us. Some citizens are looking at the federal preemption and its jurisdiction over our state and local laws.

That investigation is good to do and essential for us to explore and bring to the table. While this is occurring, I am also working to have our town Selectboard and VRS come together with facts. Facts about the timing of information and knowledge, facts about what permits have been applied for and granted, and facts about any traffic studies and recommendations brought forth.

Following the room-packed Selectboard meeting on Jan. 25 with four of our six Chittenden County senators, Rep. Webb and myself present, Sen. Ashe requested Mr. Wulfson, from VRS, to come into the Senate Finance Committee and present the project.

Senators Ashe, Sirotkin, and Lyons serve on this committee and Senator Snelling, Rep. Webb and I were in the room. Agencies of Transportation and Natural Resources testified as well. After his presentation, Mr. Wulfson put forth a lease agreement with certain stipulations. He was proposing the town to take over, at no cost, the commuter rail parking lot. This parking lot is the one that he had blocked from public access. I was told that the police and fire departments had been given key access to this parking lot. My understanding is the two departments were in agreement with this restriction especially because it would stop illegal traffic pass through. In an effort to separate the station parking lot situation from the rail conversation, I agreed to present the VRS lease to the town manager, planning commissioner and Selectboard chair. I have learned that an executive session is scheduled for Tuesday, February 2 for the town and Selectboard to meet with VRS to discuss this lease agreement.

I have concerns about the project, its extent and impact on our community. I also have many concerns about whether all the facts and information have been presented. Whether or not the federal preemptions apply here (and others are researching this), I want to have all the information before us and base our decisions on facts. Rep. Webb and I, along with our Senate colleagues, will continue to work on this.

Please stop by Bruegger’s Bagel Tuesday mornings from 7:30am to 8:30am. Conversations are always interesting. I can be reached at jlenes@leg.state.vt.us or (802) 999-9363. Leave a message at the Sergeant at Arms office (800) 322-5616.

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