DALTON — Voters by a wide margin rejected a permanent zoning ordinance during a special town meeting ballot vote on Tuesday.

The count, still unofficial as of Tuesday evening, was 195 in support of zoning and 280 against, making for a total vote count of 475.

Tuesday’s turnout was nearly double the 2021 vote that saw 135 voters in favor of extending emergency temporary zoning until a permanent ordinance was presented and 130 voters opposed to ETZ, making for a total vote count of 265 and a much narrower margin.

In 2019, ETZ was adopted in a 154-129 vote.

Dalton Town Moderator Frank Tillotson Jr. described the heavy volume of voters on Tuesday.

“Today was unbelievable, especially with all the registrations,” he said.

Tillotson estimates there were about 50 same-day voter registrations and about a 61-percent turnout among registered Dalton voters.

“It was great to see people get out and participate,” he said.

Dalton resident Pam Kathan, one of a group of residents leading the charge against zoning, was asked how she felt about the vote.

“Ecstatic, of course,” she said.

Zoning supporters and opponents of Casella Waste Systems’ proposal for a commercial landfill beside Forest Lake State Park were disappointed, but some were confident the solid waste facility will not come to fruition.

“They’re not going to get a landfill,” said Jon Swan, founder of Save Forest Lake. “This wasn’t a referendum on the landfill. It’s about zoning.”

Swan said Douglas Drive, which would be the access road to a landfill in Dalton, is in Bethlehem, and Bethlehem has zoning.

Dalton resident and landfill opponent Adam Finkel said he was astounded by Tuesday’s total vote count.

He said it can be attributed in part to the many same-day registrations, what he said was misinformation about zoning being circulated by opponents — including that zoning wouldn’t keep out a landfill — and by Casella last week withdrawing its permit applications for a landfill.

Casella, though, said its intent is to refile, and Finkel said withdrawn permits don’t mean the project is dead.

“It was a fear campaign against private property rights,” he said of the zoning defeat. “But in the three years we’ve had zoning, nothing has happened.”

Swan called the outcome of this year’s zoning vote the result of a “professional campaign waged by Casella,” which he said turned out the vote and created a process that stacked the odds against zoning supporters.

Despite the polarization between some residents on zoning, Tillotson said the day went smoothly.

“People were good, nice, and orderly,” he said.

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