Lynn Edmunds: The structure of omission is controlling Vermonters

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Lynn James Edmunds, of Wallingford.

Most Vermonters don’t hear or pay attention to the constant drone of legislation consuming their standard of living anymore, perhaps due in part to a realization that our government never seems to listen anyway. But what if that deafness was merely a result of lawmakers being distracted from their true purpose?

For many years this very subtle sound or drone has been incrementally chipping away at our foundations of liberty and free enterprise, supposedly in pursuit of good cause. But that droning sound has grown much louder recently, sounding more like a formation of bombers flying low over the horizon as they near the drop zone of their mission.

If we are to survive such a raid, Vermonters need to hear and understand what is about to happen with new storm water rules as they become weapons turned on private property owners. This attack cannot and will not be turned back by the acceptance of our omission from this legislative process that has turned against us — clearly there are more than just clean water agendas present.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

WATER RUNOFF: New “general permit” rules under Act 64 require properties with at least 3 acres of impervious surface to engineer changes that reduce runoff or else pay one-time fees of $25,000 per acre. The per-acre fee within certain watersheds is set at $50,000.

A call must go out to all Vermonters: Put aside your political party thinking, don’t be fooled by the shield of good intentions, find out what is really happening to our state, and let those who perpetuate it know you will not be fooled or left out of the equation any longer.

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) held a public hearing in Rutland on Oct. 28th, 2019, to solicit public comment on rules for mitigating stormwater runoff from properties of 3 acres or more of impervious surface. They came armed with a 24 page draft list of sites that had been identified by aerial reconnaissance as targets for compliance with GP 3-9050 rules developed for Vermont’s clean water Act 64, which passed in 2015. The DEC adopted these 3-Acre Rules in February of 2019; they took effect March 15th and will start phasing in by mid-2020.

Having attended the public forum, and after learning more about these new rules, one realizes there are many devils in their details. But for those unfortunate enough to be on the list of targets as this campaign begins, it must feel like waiting for a military assault to start without proper defenses, while knowing this war was started by those representing you — the very same people who are supposed to protect your property.

But your protection is omitted and you are brought like a sacrificial lamb waiting to be slaughtered to appease the gods of a greater good and a higher cause. Still, you wonder how could this happen and why have I been excluded and cast out by my own government as a sacrifice.

Many incremental changes have taken place in our governance here in Vermont over the last 50 years. And while it seemingly appears to have stayed the same, the structure has become one that excludes the people by their omission. A minutia of criteria that seeks to silence the people by that omission has become an art form used by those who wish to control the narrative, essentially removing us from the process of self governance. Our agendas are set for us with little concern for our priorities because, to the power brokers, we do not exist, and now they are free to lobby for their hearts’ desires and plunder in the name of a good cause with the cronies of their choice, like special interests with ties to global social engineering efforts.

Agendas that are not legislated are handed down to our municipalities through a conduit of 11 Regional Planning Commissions. These agendas come with an implied mandate that triggers most towns and cities to self-inflict them through their local zoning while thinking they have little choice but to comply, even though many agendas are not necessarily based on a statute, nor are they mandated.

Town plans once considered the basis for establishing local zoning, and a resource for development, are now used to insert action items from a menu of topics provided by your regional planning commission and organizations like the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD). One of their favorite tactics, community visits, is where they solicit your ideas that somehow coincidentally mirror a menu of their agendas, thus transferring ownership to you when you click on one and, presto, an activist is born with a local committee or commission to go along with it. (Check your town plan; action items began showing up there a little after the Paris Accords in 2015.) Next, if there is pushback as the town tries to implement the idea, we are reminded this is what a significant number of your peers said they wanted at a community meeting — or in other words, this was your idea. This tactic is simple but very effective.

When it comes to legislation it is no surprise most bills that would not be well tolerated by the public would be phased in gradually, as rules are crafted by the so-called experts who often lose sight of the people who must live with them. But this time, when it comes to the 3-Acre Rule, it is hard to even imagine coexisting with the magnitude of such onerous mandates, and there is little comfort in the notion that funding somehow would lessen the negative impact on property owners or our economy.

Perhaps the scariest information presented at the 3-Acre Rule forum was it could, in fact, cost a property owner more to comply with this mandate for engineering and impact fees than their property is worth. How does that benefit Vermonters trying to maintain an affordable existence in our state? On the contrary, it will destroy what many have worked long and hard to achieve.

Sen. Brian Collamore, a Republican, showed great concern at the hearing. An article in the Rutland Herald (“Senator wants stormwater rules delayed”) shows he considers this threat to the public and our Vermont economy very serious and has begun taking steps to address it.

Sometimes in our haste to do good things we ignore others by their omission, choosing to focus on the good we are trying to accomplish at the expense of those left out. This appears to be such a case, but that aside, it is concerning that so many of our legislators prioritize agendas of special interests over the people they serve. They allow themselves to be so distracted from a discipline of self governance that they forget its purpose and omit the well being of their peers. Perhaps the understanding of that purpose for which they govern eludes them. But who advocates for the people when they have been cast out?

When looking at legislation, any bill that must be phased in could have the potential of becoming punitive in nature. Likewise, if legislation contains exemptions in order to pass, most likely it would not be well tolerated by the public if applied to everyone at the same time, excluding the feasibility of logistics. But when a bill becomes punitive as rules are written it will undoubtedly require more measures or program creation in the future for mitigating the damage it will inflict when implemented. In other words, punitive legislation and rules used as solutions compound the problem of affordability by becoming cumulative.

Consider this: The 3-Acre Rule rose to the level of crisis because it was easily identified as problematic by the immediate threat it poses to the public. But what about the many bills and rules of lesser consequence as they incrementally compound and frustrate our sustainability — do they mater less because they fly under the radar of an obvious or immediate danger?
Remember we keep adding to our affordability problem year after year and day after day, but we simply can’t keep legislating decline to fix decline, and at some point this cycle has to stop.

The answer to the affordability problem of our state is not found in programs for economic development, but rather lies in recognizing that punitive legislation with seemingly good intentions can become a curse of benevolent cause as it seeks to mandate outcomes by confiscation of property and wealth. Regardless of how noble and good the cause for legislation purports to be, we must not allow it to enslave us to the bondage of a mandate that says “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” in spite of the damage it will inflict.

Even the smallest decline when compounded over time is significant, but the curse of doing good work that yields damaging results is difficult for lawmakers to see when they are seeking equal outcomes rather than equal opportunity, or giving preference to some above others to somehow validate an acknowledgement of those who have sinned.

The discipline required for maintaining our constitutional republic in Vermont is not understood by those who currently represent us — they either do not see how they are damaging our state, or that is their intention. In either case, this must be addressed in 2020 given the pending attack on our way of life and system of governance. We must choose a path of liberty that preserves our constitutional republic or resign ourselves to the fact that, by the acceptance of our omission from participating in our self governance, we must be content living under a more communist-style rule.

Vermont’s clean water act is touted as an investment in the future, yet its 3-Acre Rule would confiscate private property by extreme measure to achieve that end. Those who create such legislation and justify it as an investment are perhaps ignorant of the fact that when we allow our property rights to be confiscated we are killing the engine of incentive that enables our free market system to flourish and produce its own prosperity, creating a higher standard of living for all.

The affordability of our state is a byproduct of that prosperity. But when punitive actions like these are taken against the catalyst which inspires our incentive to produce, it becomes a confiscation of our future, not an investment in it.

If the intentions of Act 64 are as pure as the water its advocates seek, such force of mandate would not be used to make us comply with engineering assumptions that may bankrupt us. There is no crisis of clean water here that would warrant forced compliance to address an immediate concern. On the contrary, this is billed as an investment for future generations, so why must we use methods of extortion to procure an immediate solution?

Something doesn’t add up. Are we being played by the power brokers who are currently in charge of Vermont? Why do our legislators not see this? Who is representing us? These are legitimate questions for anyone who cares about our state and all its people.

Image courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
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21 thoughts on “Lynn Edmunds: The structure of omission is controlling Vermonters

  1. There is always a price to be paid, but paying attention is the only way to understand if the true cost was free or forced!

  2. Public hearing after public hearing run by those who are stone deaf. These are simply CMA exercises, so when the folks object to pending or passed legislation, the left rises up with indignation because they had multiple public hearings. Trouble is they all show up without their hearing aids. There are far too numerous examples of several qualified experts giving testimony challenging the wisdom of passing the proposed legislation while at the same time those supporting the issue always carry the day. Once again time is wasted on a “public hearing.”

  3. Vermont has two major flaws in its constitution; we don’t have recall and referendum rights. — that is how these loopy liberals get elected and pass these anti-people laws.

  4. Lynn, You really touched on a tender nerve. Year after year, the folks in Montpelieer and their fellow do gooders dream up solutions to problems that either don’t exist or are so minor that are seldom noticed by most folks. Once the damage is done and the many unintended consequences of their actions surface down the road, rather than correct the mistake, they go on to the next scheme and we’re all left behind. It’s a vicious cycle with no end in site. The legislature and the majority of folks who elected these people are ardent disciples of good ole Uncle Bernie. Unfortunately, there is no end in site. Our youngest and brightest are leaving the state, businesses are laying off workers, the schools are failing to educate, taxes continue to rise, and the legislature marches on. Don’t intend to be negative, but reality is in plain site.

  5. Great piece, Lynn.
    You are so correct in the way our ownership of property and rights associated with same is eroding. The day Phil Hoff was sworn in as Governor was when things began to change. The first big change was a legislature from 250 reps down to 150. Hence the power going to Chittenden and more populous counties.
    It has been downhill ever since.
    The Enhanced Energy Plan written in the puzzle palace by a group of bureaucratic thugs, and passed on down through the RPC’s to the Towns for inclusion in the Whole plan is a classic example of what Lynn is talking about: Government from on-high, rather than bottom up. The thugs are very anxious to get things of their choosing in place in VT, because to them, we are a petri dish. Much smaller than most states, costs are less to implement, a good portion of the state’s population has left so pushback will be less, regardless. If everyone who can vote comes out of the woodwork, and casts a ballot similar to what happened at the end of Howard Dean’s tenure as Governor, we can have an impact that will be effective; but EVERYONE needs to vote in the next election. There are some real problems looming from the past non-sense, such as Act 46 fallout, The energy plan as noted here, storm water issues(T Y to Sen Collamore for stepping in here) and many others. Correcting 50-60 years of wrongs will not be easy. Start with the ones headed our way in the pipeline, and work backwards would be my approach.And, of course, Gov “BEN…..” Scott has to go too.

  6. I’m pretty sure that LE is making solid arguments, but there is something turgid about the language that makes it difficult for me to follow its drift. I am familiar with all of the words, but . . . what?

  7. Is there any difference between the State taking property outright without compensation AND passing laws that so restrict the unfettered use of the property without compensating the owner for the loss of value that resulted from the legislation, ex post facto ?

    Fifth Amendment to Constitution of United States of America 1789

    No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; NOR SHALL PRIVATE PROPERTY BE TAKEN FOR PUBLIC USE, WITHOUT JUST COMPENSATION.

    • The SCOTUS just ruled on excessive profiteering from confiscation of property by police (and should apply to towns). See
      https://www.westernjournal.com/mike-huckabee-scotus-made-landmark-ruling-reins-power-government/?utm_source=Email&utm_medium=wcjemail&utm_campaign=CAN&utm_content=2019-02-23

      Michigan: The County Seized His Property, the article title is: A Michigan Man Underpaid His Property Taxes By $8.41. It can be easily searched (I think TNR wouldn’t allow such web sites).

      • The USSC has ruled that, in the case where rules lower it’s value significantly, it is a taking under the Fifth Amendment. Here’s how it works: You buy a piece of property to build a home. Then, the State moves in and says your property is part of the habitat for the Lesser Tweety Bird, and you cannot build there. Your land is now, essentially, worthless. The Court has ruled that is a taking and must be compensated.

        • I’ve heard / learned also that if an outstanding tax bill is say $100, only a portion of the property worth $100 can be taken for sale by the town.

          But of course, in VT property values are crazy, ref the 2 acre parcel of land surrounding a home (homestead). I know of properties that had bogus values of $100,000 per acre, ($200,000 total) on top of what the remainder is assess at. Mine was assessed at $11,000 per acre ($22,000 total). If you have a “view” that becomes $22,000 per acre ($ 44,000 total). This certainly inflates the town’s grand list and is open for any value the Listers can get away with.

          You need to be a millionaire to live in VT. Trouble is, hardly anyone knows how to grieve assessments or are afraid (don’t know) of the process (Listers, BCA Board, State Appraiser ($70) & State Supreme Court ($250). I know, I’ve been there and done (many times) that as the saying goes.

          The state places many road blocks designed to frustrate the property owner. The BCA Board has no one on it that knows anything about property values and their decisions are bogus. There should be regulation / law eliminating the BCA Board.

  8. Great article, while some state this is not “communism”, it’s a back door way along with Act 250 2.0 that will essentially put all land under control of the state. For those who are willing to do some research they may find it interesting that Bush Sr. ,signed our zoning for Vermont and what our current changes are back in the 1990’s….pimping for the New World Order, remember him saying that? I had no idea what it was about back then. Agenda 21….or “Sustainable Communities”. Bernie is a huge fan of that too, want to know if there is home ownership in that plan or renting homes from the state?

    This same agenda is bringing us the stupid idea of bike transportation in a northern hilly climate. Not to say it can’t be done, but tell me how that’ll work, go out tonight and grab a case of beer, bike over to my house. let me know.

    Yeah the problem with planned communities is that it doesn’t rely on collective genius of the American people, but the ruling class that are stuffing their pockets with well funded state projects that are nothing more than make work. Soviet 5 year plans, what could possibly go wrong. Our drug problems? Our education problems? Our health care problems? Our University problems…there you go, supposedly the brightest minds on the planet, they can’t figure out how come education is too expensive? They have figured out how to strap our youth with crushing debt though haven’t they? Yeah these are the people pulling the strings, doing the planning. What could possibly do wrong with the New World Order?

    VNRC says Vermont should only have 200,000 people, more is unsustainable, let that sink in.

    Meanwhile your town of 500 will be getting a new side walk with bump outs to make plowing so much easier and crossing the street safer, to which no engineer has been able to tell me how much safer……but it is….we need to shed these socialist shackles, it’s just cronyism run rampant.

  9. This is interesting. No one owns their property with property taxation. Have trouble paying your exorbitant taxes, the town will take it. The towns own the property. You have a deeded right to occupy only. Any improvements you make becomes town property and is reflected on the Grand List. If the CLA value is below the threshold dictated by the state property taxation Dept. they will demand new property appraisals, hence higher taxes. And the school systems get 80%+ of the tax revenues. It’s a continuing process, never ending.

    The 3-Acre Rule herein mentioned should apply to the real property owner, the town and they have to oblige.

    “Vermont’s clean water act is touted as an investment in the future, yet its 3-Acre Rule would confiscate private property by extreme measure to achieve that end”. This proves property ownership.

    Time to get the hell out of Dodge.

    • It’s all across America….we happen to be first adopters, we invite organizers to come into our state from other locations to bring us this garbage. Might as well stay and make a stand here, we know the ground, we know the lay of the land, it’s a defensible position, not too big either

      We need hope, we need small victories. They are ours for the taking if we only choose to work together.

      • Hi Neil, I designed and built a house in Elberta AL, 75 feet from a bayou leading to a salt water body. Google search 26282 Bayou Dr Elberta AL 36530, Baldwin County. and see the aerial. Property taxes are $500 per year. They don’t tax you off your property. Elberta is about 30 miles from Pensacola, AND good fishing. The property is for sale, check Zillow. I’ll be moving to AL.

        AL is a great state.

        • Amazing no? You couldn’t have built that hous in Vermont based on your description of the location. When was the last time people saw a,tax bill like that? I’m paying $1800 per year for a vacant 4 acre lot in Vt.

          A good friend of mine just put a house under contract in NC, probably 40 % cheaper than what you can buy in Vermont, taxes are $1500 per year.

          We are messed up here. It’s all man made, so it should be easily corrected. What you state is true and very, very compelling. It’s the reason so many people are fleeing Vermont and New York. This socialist wave is across America, must be nice to be in areas that it hasn’t permeated the entire American eay of life. Can’t blame you at all.

          • Heard and read, many times that families are moving into AL every 9 minutes.

            When I travel south thru AL, it’s 400 miles NE corner to Gulf Shores. I don’t see much development, mostly open & forested, cattle, deer, bear and am in a rural area.
            Looking for land to buy.

            Last year got a taste of VT, had 1-1/2 inches of snow, temps can get into the high 20’s. Currently it costs me $330 a month to stay at a RV park including all utilities and internet. Nice people here and 4 Vt’ers. Also 1500 (short time-wise) miles from Utopia VT. Here for the winter.

  10. You are dreaming about a never never land that didn’t exist. I knew a lot of those old time Vermonters. Prior to WWII, they were less well informed about what the folks in Montpelier were doing. Today we have True North Reports and Vt Digger and SevenDays. I exclude the Free Press and Times Argus as I’ve seen articles in them that I knew to be false, but we have such sources if folks will use them.

    As for regulations…When my folks bought this old farm in Bolton right after the war, we had no neighbors closer than one mile. To east and west it was more like five miles or more. The town had no dump, so we had to use the same system the previous owner had used. Over the bank of the stream. We could set up a rifle range if we wanted and cut hay in the cool of the afternoon and evening. There were about 350,000 Vermonters back in those days. Today, with around 760,000 Vermonters we can’t do that anymore. We have to be more careful about where storm water goes. Or where sewage goes, or where the noise from a shooting range goes. We have a neighbor who complains if we mow the grass in the cool of the evening, or if we shoot a gun at a target. At the legal level, the state has had to set up rules so that sewage systems are constructed properly and sometimes there have to be restrictions because of soil types. Dense clay just will not absorb waste very well. We had a case in Bolton, when I was on the select board,where a developer, a few years before, had built a housing development in the backswamps of the Winooski. The residents complained to the board that water gathered there after every storm. There was nothing we could do as a select board has no authority to make water flow uphill. Yet to have told that landowner that he couldn’t build there would have been denounced and branded as taking away his property rights. This is not “communism.” It is only the fact that there are more people in Vermont than there used to be, and we have to have laws to keep us from stepping on each other’s toes. And it will get worse.

    • Thank you for your voice of reason. And for your selectboard service, and for keeping in mind that we must be good stewards of the land and take good care of each other.

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