trashy pownal

An informational meeting on a new local law regulating trash and solid waste in yards in Pownal produced wide praise for the effort to draft the ordinance, which takes effect on Monday.

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POWNAL — An effort by officials and members of the public to create an ordinance targeting trash and refuse left in view won a round of praise during an informational meeting Wednesday.

“I want to thank the Planning Commission and Development Review Board for working hard on this,” said Select Board Chairman Michael Gardner, who also thanked his board members and members of the public who participated in drafting the ordinance.

“I think the people in town should be proud of this,” said Planning Commission member and Health Officer Fred Miller. “I think it’s a good step for the town.”

John Bushee, the Planning Commission chairman, said the ordinance represents change, which can be unsettling, but he urged “the public to try to work with it” to benefit Pownal.

Another planner, Megan Randall, said, “I think the image of Pownal will be greatly improved” by the ordinance, adding that many town officials “worked to treat everyone with courtesy” during the drafting process.

“Not to make any promises,” Randall said, “but I think it will do a lot for this town.”

Planner Jim Winchester said he thought “the boards were all on the same page” and considered all points of view.


The officials also acknowledged that a key point — the exact method of enforcement and who will issue tickets to violators — still has to be worked out in detail.

Gardner said he hopes the board can begin working out those details at a meeting in early October. The ordinance was approved July 28 by the Select Board and will take effect on Monday.

Under consideration is having the Select Board designate someone to issue written warnings to violators and tickets to those who fail to eliminate the problem.

Some officials also continued to point out what they see as a need to define the word “junk,” which would be prohibited from yards unless screened or in a structure.

Others balked over the word when the ordinance was drafted, contending, in effect, that “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”


The ordinance title is listed as “Ordinance Regulating the Disposal of Solid Waste and Outdoor Storage of Household Trash.”

It was proposed to address longstanding problems in Pownal with eyesore properties visible from highways and town roads and the negative effects on the town’s image to visitors and anyone thinking of buying property here.

The ordinance, which is posted on the town website, has been approved by the Select Board.

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It could be challenged through a petition drive to gather the signatures of at least 5 percent of registered town voters, calling for a townwide vote, but officials said they haven’t heard of a possible challenge.


Without specifically prohibiting “junk,” the ordinance does contain several provisions that aim to guide or push residents into keeping yards free of eyesore items.

It states that as a general requirement, “It shall be the responsibility of each owner, agent, occupant or lessee to keep his or her property free of litter, refuse, garbage, solid waste and trash. She or he shall be responsible for removing litter, refuse, garbage, solid waste or trash accumulating on said property.”

The ordinance also states: “No owner, agent, occupant or lessee of any property shall allow the storage or accumulation of litter, refuse, garbage, waste or trash on the exterior of said property outside of a receptacle that is covered, secured and maintained, so as to prevent blowing, spilling, scattering or leaking of the contents therein.

“Since plastic bags, even when tied, are subject to animal invasion and/or degradation by weather, they do not constitute as a covered and secured receptacle. Accordingly, exterior accumulation of the bags containing trash is not permitted.”


And the ordinance states its purpose in another section: “It is the purpose of this ordinance to regulate the disposal of solid waste, the location and outdoor storage of waste, and household trash in the town of Pownal in order to protect the public health, safety and well-being, and to protect the environment.”

And the ordinance addresses so-called “endless tag sales,” in which sale items are left outdoors indefinitely.

The law specifies: “Outdoor sales (such as tag sales or flea markets) shall not have goods or debris left outside longer than three consecutive days. Seller shall remove all evidence of sale and merchandise by dusk of the day following close of sale, and between all sales. Covering merchandise with a tarpaulin does not fulfill this requirement. Items being put out as free must be removed within two days if not taken.”

The ordinance does not apply to farm stands and outdoor sale of agricultural products.

Possible fines for violators are up to $50 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, $200 for a third offense, $400 for a fourth offense and $800 for a subsequent offense. Each day that the violation continues constitutes a separate violation of the ordinance.


Gardner and others stressed the need to educate the public and show patience as the ordinance and its enforcement begins.

“I want to make sure we don’t take a heavy hand in this,” said Select Board member Robert Jarvis, but he added he wants to ensure it is effective in addressing problems.

Gardner and others saw a need for further public education on the provisions and urged residents to read the ordinance as posted or obtain a copy.

Jim Therrien writes for Vermont News and Media, including the Bennington Banner, Manchester Journal and Brattleboro Reformer. Email


Jim Therrien reports for the three Vermont News and Media newspapers in Southern Vermont. He previously worked as a reporter and editor at the Berkshire Eagle, the Bennington Banner, the Springfield Republican, and the former North Adams Transcript.


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