RUTLAND HERALD 04/13/21
By Keith Whitcomb Jr.
BRANDON — There won’t be a noise ordinance in town, at least not anytime soon, after a 4-1 rejection voted by the Select Board on Monday.
For the past several months, the town has debated whether to draft a noise ordinance. Two public listening sessions were held by the board in March, and it has been discussed at several regular board meetings.
After more talk Monday, Selectman Tracy Wyman motioned for the board to keep things as they are and rely on existing state statutes for noise-related problems. Selectman Mike Markowski seconded the motion. Both voted in favor, along with Selectman Brian Coolidge and board Chairman Seth Hopkins. The opposing vote was cast by Selectman Tim Guiles.
“It’s been helpful to have the range of opinions that’s been expressed, and I really appreciate everybody for what they have brought to the discussion and for caring enough to participate in the discussions,” said Hopkins.
Wyman said in addition to the people speaking at the listening sessions, the board was sent a little over 20 letters. Of those, 12 were in favor of an ordinance and nine were against. He added that Brandon resident Peter Werner had done a survey along High Pond Road, an area where some of the noise problems have been occurring, and of the 35 surveyed, none said they felt threatened by recreational shooting and only one favored a noise ordinance.
Allie Breyer, a resident of High Pond Road, questioned the survey’s accuracy.
Breyer is chairwoman of the Planning Commission. She lives with the former chairman of the Planning Commission, Michael Shank. They have an animal sanctuary on their property and have said their neighbor’s use of firearms has been ruining their ability to use said property. The noise ordinance debate began when, in 2020, the Planning Commission, under Shank, began looking into crafting a noise ordinance. The Select Board took the process over, leading to Monday’s vote.
Breyer said more than one person on High Pond Road wants a noise ordinance. She took issue with the notion that noise problems can all be solved by talking. She and Shank have made attempts to solve the problem that way to no avail, adding that their complaining about it and support of an ordinance has led to them being harassed.
“These are not reasonable people willing to have reasonable conversations with us, even though we’ve tried that,” she said. “We’re at our wits’ end, and we don’t know what else to do because we’ve tried all other avenues.”
Wyman said he didn’t feel as if the board had heard from enough people and suggested it be brought up for a vote or discussion at Town Meeting Day, which would be March 2021.
Markowski agreed, saying he has the impression most people are against a noise ordinance.
Guiles said even with a noise ordinance in place, he would expect most noise problems to be solved by neighbors talking to each other. The ordinance would simply be a tool to use when talking doesn’t work.
He offered an amendment to Wyman’s motion calling for the board to make a statement on how the noise problems already raised should be handled by police. The amendment didn’t receive a second, with Hopkins saying it’s not the board’s practice to give that level of instruction to professional town employees.
“I would be surprised if the board would be foolish enough to take a position on how these issues would be resolved,” said Hopkins.
Shank said in an email to the Herald on Tuesday that he and Breyer are putting their property up for sale and plan to leave town.
“We’re deeply disappointed with the town’s decision,” he stated. “It very clearly broadcasts the message that not every residents’ rights matter. Given that decision, we’ve decided to sell our farm and leave Brandon. This was an incredibly painful decision. But assault weapons and explosives — and the noise ordinance that was meant to protect us from their daily assault — were just the final straw. We’re now looking for a town where the well-being of every resident — including animals — is prioritized, where diverse representation is encouraged and cultivated, and where new ideas are welcomed.”