Wednesday November 7, 2012

VERNON -- Vermont Yankee protesters take note: You may want to forgo that extra cup of coffee before heading to Vernon.

The town Selectboard has approved a new ordinance banning public urination and establishing a fine of at least $300 for the offense.

It’s aimed at addressing complaints from property owners near the embattled Vermont Yankee power plant, which regularly hosts protests from anti-nuclear activists.

While those gatherings are peaceful, officials contend they’re not always sanitary.

"Every time there’s a protest, their lawns are being used as public rest rooms," Selectboard Chairwoman Patty O’Donnell said.

The law, which will take effect after 60 days according to public-notification requirements, was approved by the board Monday and is modeled on a similar Brattleboro statute.

"It was easier," O’Donnell said. "Why reinvent the wheel?"

She added that it came as some surprise to board members that the town had not previously, explicitly banned such behavior. Without the new law, "the only thing we could get them on is littering," Selectboard member Jeff Dunklee said.

The ordinance notes that there had been "no provision for empowering Town of Vernon police officers to cite on a municipal level, using local ordinances, instead of relying on state charges of disorderly conduct and open lewdness.


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So the three-page document, which bans both public urination and defecation, lays out clear definitions for terms such as "appropriate sanitary facility." That means "a urinal, toilet, commode or other facility that accommodates or is designed for the sanitary disposal of human bodily fluids."

Violators are those who don’t use such accommodations, instead urinating or defecating in any public place, "any private property into or upon which the public is admitted by easement or license" or "any private property without consent of the owner."

If it happens that someone does the deed described above, it then counts as a separate violation "to fail to clean or remove the material deposited immediately, or to fail to dispose immediately of the material used in the cleaning or removal process in a container designed for such disposal."

Each violation is a civil offense carrying a penalty ranging from $300 to $600 plus court costs.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.