My View
The death of Dover, Vermont

By Don Sorchych | May 28, 2008 | Vol. 14 No. 22

I received a book from a thoughtful Creeker named Rod Andersen a couple of weeks ago titled, “The Death of Dover, Vermont.”

Inside the book cover was a note, “Don, read the inside cover flap! Could be Cave Creek.”
The cover flap contains a good summary of the book:

“This novel, by Steve Chantos, is the story of Mark Terrick and his wife whom he meets in Greenwich Village, New York City, while both are young and searching for good times and income – Mark to get out of debt – in Manhattan. Underneath they are stable young people who want the normal things of life – home, family, work, security, freedom, and responsibility.

“Mark Terrick takes his new-found girlfriend back with him to Dover, Vermont, where he had opened a ski shop the year before which had put him into debt. He and Lee decide to try to make a go of it. After a fairly successful season at the ‘Snow Haus,’ Mark and Lee then decide to renovate and double the size of the shop to insure more income during the following winter season. This is but one of the first of many of Mark’s plans for new construction and management. His three years of college study in architecture stand him in good stead in these enterprises, but he also finds that he has much to learn in practical, political and human relations terms.

“Eventually Mark and Lee marry, and their Snow Haus prospers adequately as he and Lee give all they have to making it work. And their marriage works too, for Lee and Mark share a vitally important quality: the desire for independence, to make it on their own and the will to succeed. And their family grows as well. Unable to have children of their own, over the years they adopt three – Michael, Nora Anne and Jeremy – and their family life is all they could ask for.

“Mark becomes increasingly involved in local politics as his concern for his community increases and as he begins to see that it is men and women who make the political decisions that affect everyone’s lives. A selectman for years, Mark is forced, though he fights, to see the gradual ruination of Dover as some well-meaning and some selfish local planners and federal and state environmentalists take over completely, worsening living conditions for the whole of southern Vermont. He fights but, being flexible in maturity, he and Lee – after one last try at succeeding in Dover through building and operating a gas station – leave Dover to build a successful life for themselves and their family in New York.

“This is a sad, touching, inspiring and sobering novel that reflects perhaps the most crucial conflict of modern times: the individual versus the state.”

The individual versus the state, indeed!

Fortunately, Cave Creek’s government structure is different from Dover, Vermont’s in many areas.

For example, Terrick became a selectman, the rough equivalent of a Cave Creek councilman, where there had been a languishing local government.

Then the selectmen decided they needed a planning and zoning commission. They discovered they had one, but it wasn’t active, so they appointed citizens to fill the open positions.

In subsequent elections, selectmen found that voting out commission members cost them votes when they themselves were up for renewal. Over time selectmen quietly let incompetence remain seated.

Here is a parallel. Note how the dark side of Cave Creek politics continues to simmer over the firing of Bob Moore from the planning commission, even filing a complaint with the attorney general’s office.

Subsequently, in Dover, other commissions were established, for roads, sewer and water. Each of those commissions developed into fiefdoms, riddled with conflicts of interest. Each of these commissions added to costs, complexity and restrictions on home building and business practices.

Terrick complained to his wife, “Can you imagine the people voting for weak elected officials because there already exists strong appointed ones who could maintain control? We would no longer have a democracy. We would have government ‘for’ but not ‘of’ or ‘by’ the people.”

Dover then began to feel the effects of new environmental laws from state and regional boards that multiplied the negative effects on Dover’s economy.

The end of the novel was a visit to Dover by the Terrick family after selling out and moving to greener pastures. It was not the Dover they loved. Boarded businesses and a malaise of depression was in the air.

So here we are with the jackboot of federal, state, county and town laying on a draconian dust control ordinance on Cave Creek.

We have a council and mayor voting 6-1, Council Ernie Bunch dissenting, to affirm that ordinance “because they had to.”

To use Terrick’s words, “weak elected officials,” from here to Washington D.C.

If my referendum is successful, you can vote to affirm or deny the decision made by council.

And what does the town have up its sleeve? You can bet the signatures and referendum forms will be given a serious look for any deficiency.

There is talk that the town may claim the vote is “administrative” rather than “legislative” and therefore not referable. In that case it will be litigated. Save your economic stimulus check to help if that does happen.

In Scottsdale Amy Ganley filed a referendum under the name “Unjust Dust” on a portion of the dust control ordinance. Kevin Osterman hired former Cave Creek Town Attorney Tom Irvine to seek an injunction against the referendum, which had been approved, meeting requisite requirements.

According to Amy, the town attorney conceded, on the record in court, that the action by council was legislative.

We have enough signatures now, but since they will undoubtedly be carefully scrutinized, more than twice the required number is critical. We have until June 6 to complete the referendum, so volunteers to get more signatures are paramount.

Thanks to those of you who have volunteered!