Strong — and Offended
I found Judith Levine’s recent column  [Poli Psy, July 18] to be perplexing and, frankly, disgusting. The “I Am Vermont Strong” initiative started out as a means to celebrate Vermonters uniting in the face of our worst disaster in memory, and it subsequently became a hugely successful fundraiser helping those impacted by Irene.
I, for one, was immensely proud of the initiative and resilience shown by Vermonters, both individually and as communities, in responding to the devastation. If Levine finds this rugged individualism somehow offensive, well, she’s certainly entitled to her opinion. But for her to defile the campaign as an excuse to rail about her views on health care and human rights is repugnant.
Levine calls the campaign “a clever way to get working-class people to pay for the Irene cleanup and avoid taxing the rich.” Rather than celebrating the fact that so many Vermonters rallied behind this opportunity to help their neighbors, she chooses to smear the effort with negativity by politicizing it.
Furthermore, her comment that the “only vehicles” with the plates are “big-guy pickup trucks” is nothing short of absurd. These plates are being sported proudly on thousands of vehicles, from Priuses to fire trucks. I wonder if Levine is aware that the creator of the “Vermont Strong” image is female?
I’d suggest that Levine save future comments for events that perhaps have not devastated so many of her neighbors across our state. Meanwhile, I’ll wear my “Vermont Strong” plate proudly ... on my Subaru wagon.
Not Buying It
[Re “Gas-Station Owner Skip Vallee: Competition Crusher or Creative Capitalist?”  July 25]: There is another word that describes Skip Vallee: greedy. I have watched him become Vermont’s biggest robber baron. His business practices are anticompetitive and I will not patronize any of his establishments ever again. For him to have the gall to complain about Costco after he pulls crap like he has done in Plainfield is absolutely ridiculous. He doesn’t give a shit about the wetlands, and if he expects anyone to believe him, he’s fooling himself.
Rules of the Game?
As the former owner of 237 North Ave., I found it curious that now the 25-unit Packard Lofts condo project is planned for this .65-acre site [“Weinberger’s Condo Project Not the Fresh Start Some Neighbors Were Expecting,”  July 3]. When I owned the property, it was zoned for 12 units maximum. A primary reason for the zoning restriction was the issue of parking. If 25 residents have 40 to 50 cars, they would end up parking blocks away from their residence. I found it interesting that Mayor Miro Weinberger was able to overcome these bothersome restrictions while I certainly had no chance of breaking even, much less winning, in my costly legal battles with the city.
His Hartland Group, the current owner of the property, was successfully able to obtain a very valuable zoning variance to build double the number of units — to be priced from $150,000 to $400,000 apiece — than I would have been permitted in the ’80s. The end result of this new, favorable 2012 zoning permit has been to miraculously change a white elephant property into a moneymaker.
When I bought the property, it was being used as a thriving 50-employee printing business with a stable state contract. Once I became the owner, the Progressive administration of Mayor Peter Clavelle altered the zoning away from commercial usage. The owner of the now-doomed Heritage Printing Company, Malcolm Donaldson, took this politically inspired “de-zoning” hard — so hard that he had a fatal heart attack during the endless court hearings over zoning.
I suppose I should be grateful for only having to endure a bankruptcy. I guess I didn’t have the “right stuff” to make it in the commercial real estate business in Burlington. If I had only known at the time how “adaptive reuse” really works in Burlington. It’s all about connections in the right places.
This dilemma [“Rails or Trails? New Yorkers Clash Over the Future of an Adirondack Train Line,”  July 18] is similar to the one we had here in the Laurentians with the “P’tit Train Du Nord.” Both camps should look into it. The train was crucial in the development of the region and brought flocks of tourists and skiers for decades until its ultimate decline in the mid-’80s. Harsh feuds ensued when the decision was made to convert it to a recreational trail. Two decades later, the success of this decision is still tangible: bike trail in summer, snowmobile trail in winter, beloved by locals and tourist industries. Plus, you guys already have enough scenic trains in the Adirondacks; having another one would be unhealthy competition.
Off the Agri-Mark
I am writing this letter to correct some misleading information that recently appeared in a blog post regarding the Agri-Mark dairy cooperative and its farmer members . My family dairy farm in Middlebury has been a member of Agri-Mark and its predecessor cooperative for more than 50 years.
Has the co-op made some mistakes over the years? Yes, we have, but we have made corrections and been a good partner to Vermont and the other states where our farmer members operate dairy farms.
All Agri-Mark members share in the profits and other benefits available to all members. We also have access to detailed financial information in our annual report that is published and mailed to us each year. Broad policy directions for the cooperative are developed and voted on by representatives elected by members.
Yes, Agri-Mark is a good-size cooperative, and proudly so. The co-op, in total, markets almost 3 billion pounds of farmer milk each year, a full truckload every nine minutes, 365 days a year.
Our co-op headquarters are in Massachusetts, close to many of our customers in the Boston area and the other large consumer markets in the Northeast. However, the vast majority of our 1000 employees work in Vermont.
Please judge our standing as a true member cooperative with any of our current members, not disgruntled former members who left the cooperative more than 20 years ago.
Foster is the dairy-farming owner of Foster Brothers Farm.
[Re “Hello, Moto,”  July 3]: Anything that brings more tourism and outside dollars to the state is potentially a good thing, but they all come with a caveat. I appreciated the passion Eric Milano brings to his business, and it’s definitely the kind of start-up for which Vermont is justly famous, but it rankles on one potential issue: noise.
As soon as the weather warmed, Burlington started resembling a mini Sturgis every weekend. While I am a fan of motorcycles and completely get why they’re fun to own and ride, I’m also a fan of quiet city streets and a good quality of life: another thing for which Vermont is justly famous.
The problem is not at all with innovative business approaches like MotoVermont, but with unnecessarily noisy bikes, which seem to dominate motorcycle culture lately. I would ask not only that MotoVermont maintain noise-mitigating standards above those required by the state on all of their rental bikes, but that they also encourage their fellow motorcycle enthusiasts to do the same while in our fair state.
Loud pipes don’t save lives; they just annoy neighbors.
Thanks, But No Thanks
After something is rescued from the clutches of the bad guys, it often has to be saved from the good guys [“Waterfront Warrior Rick Sharp Wants One More Thing for the Bike Path He Blazed: Segways,”  August 1]. That is true for the proposal to allow Segways on the Burlington Bike Path. Before my time here, Rick Sharp spearheaded developing the bike path from a derelict railroad line. I am deeply grateful every time I’m on the path, which averages four to five round trips per week, year round. But allowing Segways or other non-human-powered vehicles is inconsistent with the intent of the bike path and dangerous for bikers and walkers. It also would likely be the first step in fully mechanizing bike-path traffic; why not electric or gasoline scooters, golf carts or go-karts? So thanks again to Mr. Sharp for a loving, lasting gift to Burlington, but no thanks on converting the bike path into a city street.
Happy With Vallee
[Re “Gas-Station Owner Skip Vallee: Competition Crusher or Creative Capitalist?” July 25]: I thought Kathryn Flagg wrote a fair and balanced article, even if the accompanying, well-drawn illustration of Mr. Vallee portrayed him as “Count Vallee” or “The Evil Robber Baron!” Shame on Mr. Vallee for making more than a dollar in profit in running an honest, if at times arm-twisting, enterprise that creates jobs and wealth!
I was one of a dozen or more who purchased some “bad gas” at the Maplefields near the BTV airport several months ago. (The error in the gas mixture was done from a gas shipment from Massachusetts.) To the credit of Mr. Vallee and General Manager Mr. Otto Hansen VI and Food Service Operations Manager Joe Sibley in St. Albans, these gentlemen took this problem by the horns and went above and beyond to resolve any car-repair issues — and provided rental cars during this mishap.
Their decision could have been made to delay and hire a legal-eagle team to turn this problem into one even greater and create more expense for all.
Follow-up letters and phone calls from R.L. Vallee, Inc. made sure the entire issue was resolved as quickly and fairly as possible. I felt I was dealing with a responsible Vermont businessman concerned for his fellow Vermonters!
Vallee v. Sanders
[Re “Gas-Station Owner Skip Vallee: Competition Crusher or Creative Capitalist?” July 25]: Skip Vallee makes the snarky comment: “With Costco, I am glad Bernie has finally found a multinational he likes.” You never know who you’re going to find yourself in bed with, do you? For instance, in the same article, it’s pointed out that Skip joined forces with those opposing the St. Albans Walmart.
The thing is, though, Bernie is looking out for the interests of the Vermont consumer, while you, Skip, are just looking out for your own narrow, selfish interests. You do see the difference, don’t you, Skip?
The Rich Get Richer
I think it’s about time our Vermont government put a price limit on how much a gallon of gasoline can be sold for [“Gas-Station Owner Skip Vallee: Competition Crusher or Creative Capitalist?” July 25]. Also, more investigating needs to be done on price gouging, raising prices before new deliveries, and gas and oil spills on ground. If Skip wants to close that station in Plainfield, the town select board should force him to dig up the tanks and remove them from the property. It’s an environmental problem for the future. The Department of Transportation needs to check into Skip’s trucks, log books and other equipment at his place of business. Fuel, propane, heating-oil companies — they all need to be checked out. I myself will not put my money in Skip’s pocket so he can live high on the hog and keep ruining our Vermont towns and cities. Wake up, people, and smell the roses, because the rich get richer and the hardworking Vermonters keep getting poorer. Time to get our Vermont agencies out there earning their pay.
Gary Hall Sr.