Yes to Article 11

To the Editor:

Proponents of the current effort to place a massive landfill in Dalton within throwing distance of Forest Lake and in the midst of sensitive wetland areas have leaned heavily on the argument that most of those opposing this project are “out-of-towners”, “tourists”, “lakies”, and NIMBYs who selfishly want to preserve their fancy lakefront vacation properties and don’t care about the wellbeing of Dalton and its residents. This argument is simplistic, wrong, and offensive, and it avoids the very real issues surrounding this project.

I am not currently a resident of NH or Dalton; however, my family has owned property on Forest Lake and paid taxes to Dalton for nearly 120 years, and I find the assertion that my interests in the region don’t matter to be patently offensive. My great grandfather, Dr. Richard Wilder, was the town doctor in Whitefield, and in 1902 he was one of the first people in the area to purchase property on Round Pond, now named Forest Lake. He wanted a peaceful spot to gather with his three children, Dean, Isabelle, and Richard, and his many friends whose visits are recorded in our camp log dating back to 1903. Isabelle eventually taught science in Whitefield High School (her textbooks are still on the shelves of our cottage on the lake), and Dean was appointed to the Naval Academy and served as a commander in the Navy during World War II. Richard remembered sliding down the Cog Railway on a Devil’s Shingle while doing summer work on the tracks and Dean helped secure the turnbuckles that held the Old Man’s face to the mountain. My mother, Dean’s daughter, brought me to the lake every summer and now I bring my children there every season.

I have moved all around the country in my 54 years, but I consider Forest Lake and Dalton to be my home, and I care deeply about the lake, the town, and the region as my parents, and their parents, and their parents before them did. The hundreds of thousands of dollars we have dutifully paid to the town of Dalton in taxes over the years are hard evidence of that.

We all have things that we don’t want in our backyards. That doesn’t make our interests wrong. I’m sure many of those supporting the landfill can think of lots of things they wouldn’t like moving in next door to their homes. And they might be right to object. Why on Earth would Dalton, an area with extraordinary natural resources including the Dalton Ridge, Forest Lake, miles of Connecticut river frontage, and proximity to the White Mountains choose to squander it’s opportunities by becoming a dumping site for garbage? I can think of a hundred different lucrative industrial uses for Mr. Ingerson’s property, and I would object to few of them. But a landfill’s impact does not stay within the borders of the landfill. It has been well documented that odors, incessant noise, truck traffic, scavenger birds, leachate leaks (like the one just reported in Bethlehem), and other contaminants affect all those in the vicinity of the site and beyond the borders of Dalton. These are not petty NIMBY concerns, these are real issues that will have a real impact on Dalton, its tax base, and its economic future.

I urge those fortunate enough to be able to vote in Dalton to show up on June 8th and vote “Yes” on Warrant Article 11, extending Temporary Emergency Zoning for one year. The zoning law voted in two years ago has not stopped any homeowner’s project, but it affords the town a means for controlling its own destiny. Don’t let this big out-of-state corporation peddling it’s polluting industry with the enticement of some quick and easy cash take advantage of the people of Dalton and turn the town into the dumping ground for the North Country. My Great Grandfather would be so disappointed.

Scott Baytosh

Property Owner

Dalton, N. H.

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(1) comment

Jim Dannis

The writer is absolutely correct that the regulatory review and approval process for large projects like the proposed landfill should take serious account of the interests of affected property owners.

The way this could have been ensured was to craft legislation that would beef up DES's consideration of impacts on affected property owners. For example, specifically measure the impacts and weigh them against the asserted public benefits of a project. Require a net public benefit determination with quantitative inputs where possible.

But instead of a sound legislative approach like this, the landfill opponents pushed for HB 177, a lazy, unprincipled, anti-property rights bill that would have the state tell Mr. Ingerson he is not permitted to have a landfill on his 1700+ acres of land in Dalton (almost 10% of the town). NH is a property rights state and this bill was bound to fail from the very outset.

As for zoning, under NH practice this is almost exclusively a town question, not a regional one. Town voters decide. Reading the recent LTEs, it seems that many people who don't vote in Dalton want to tell Dalton voters what they should do. One wonders if the typical Dalton voter takes kindly to being lectured on what she should do in the voting booth? Will there be a backlash?

As for the substance of zoning, temporary zoning will absolutely not "stop" the landfill. This is misinformation. Emergency temporary zoning as authorized by state statute is a barebones framework that essentially prohibits all commercial and industrial development except via discretionary, one-off approvals via "variance" with no tailored or workable standards. There is little doubt that if the landfill were to bother to file and were denied, the denial would not stand. Indeed, one wonders if the landfill's response to DES's inquiry about local approvals in Dalton (if emergency zoning continues after the coming town meeting) will simply be "There is no zoning regulation in Dalton that can be validly applied to our proposal."

It's a different story with permanent zoning, which is why many Dalton residents have stepped up with detailed comments to the planning board on how the permanent zoning ordinance can be crafted to be fair and effective. A permanent zoning ordinance can and should contain appropriate provisions regarding landfills that are within the town's regulatory authority.

And back to the "NIMBY" concept. Yes, whether or not one likes the label, this is an accurate term for people who oppose a development because of impacts on their own land. We were "NIMBYs" during Northern Pass.

The way to be an effective NIMBY is to draw distinctions between what developments are ok and what ones should be opposed.

Think about Mr. Ingerson's land. He tried to put up a small motorized recreation facility. NIMBYs stopped him. Now he's trying to put a landfill on his land. NIMBY's are opposing him.

What if the landfill fails and he wants to put up industrial-scale chicken facilities? Or a ski slope with lighted gondolas (ski slopes are an historical use of Forest Lake state park). Or a hotel on top of the ridge? Or an Amazon distribution center, like the one just approved in Hudson NH? Or a shooting range? Or a rally car driving facility? Or what if Mr. Ingerson tries again with motorized recreation?

Will the writer of this LTE, who claims there are many uses of Mr. Ingerson's land he would support, decide to support or oppose these uses?

These are important questions. As of now, the NIMBY group is perceived as folks who will oppose pretty much everything Mr. Ingerson wants to do on his land. It may well be that to influence Dalton voters, this impression will have to change?

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