BRATTLEBORO -- After a 1,397-425 vote Tuesday, retail cannabis sales will be allowed within the town.
Voters elected incumbent Ian Goodnow for a three-year term, and incumbent Daniel Quipp and Jessica Callahan Gelter for one-year terms.
Goodnow received 1,641 votes to Rikki Risatti's 103. Risatti garnered 111 votes in a bid for a one-year seat.
"I'm very grateful for the town of Brattleboro to allow me to serve on the board for the next three years and I look forward to continuing to do the work of the town," Goodnow said.
"I look forward to serving our community," Gelter said.
Quipp had 1,095 votes. Gelter had 1,110. Evan Chadwick had 748. Kurt Daims had 160.
Gary Stroud, who left the Select Board race in February after being diagnosed with cancer, received 85 votes. Jackson Stein, who dropped out Sunday in an effort aimed at not splitting "the progressive votes" and encouraged residents to vote for Gelter, garnered 53 votes.
Brattleboro voted 1,551-226 against withdrawing from the Windham Southeast School District and 1,451-320 against allowing other towns to do the same. The fate of the district also is being determined by Dummerston, Guilford and Putney.
In a 1,350-171 vote, Brattleboro residents supported Article 3, which seeks to allow what Town Manager Peter Elwell calls "a greater degree of self-governance to be exercised by the people of Brattleboro."
"Specifically, if approved by Brattleboro voters and then by the State Legislature, this article would allow future charter changes to be made by Brattleboro voters (and affirmed by the Brattleboro Select Board) without having to obtain the state Legislature’s approval, as long as the provisions being adopted already exist in at least one other municipal charter in Vermont," he wrote in an op-ed.
The cannabis question had been proposed so the town could prepare for businesses to begin selling cannabis products next year by developing regulations and processes. A cannabis commission will need to be appointed or the Select Board will have to serve in that capacity as it does as liquor commissioners.
If the community opted in to retail cannabis, the town's Planning Commission said it will “conduct a public process to consider whether the existing regulations are sufficient as written or whether changes are needed. In carrying out this duty, the Brattleboro Planning Commission will seek broad public involvement and keep its activities open and inclusive. It is the Planning Commission’s responsibility to draft zoning bylaws and the Select Board’s responsibility to adopt them. If zoning amendments are proposed, the Planning Commission and Select Board will both conduct formal public hearings, as required by law.”
The vote is binding but not permanent, meaning the town can hold another vote in the future regardless of the outcome of the first vote.
“If the first vote is yes and the second vote is no," Elwell previously said, "then any establishments that get licensed in the meantime would be allowed to continue to operate.”
At about 1 p.m. Tuesday, Town Clerk Hilary Francis described turnout as "a steady, slow trickle." At no point prior to the interview had she seen lines nor times where the polling location was empty.
At the start of the day, the town had received more absentee ballot requests than total votes casted in annual Town Meeting Day elections in 2018, 2015 and 2014.
Francis reported a slightly above average turnout for Town Meeting Day. She called the cannabis question, contested Select Board races and a question on school district withdrawal "some pretty big draws."
Poll workers and the American Legion were credited by Francis as being "awesome" and "amazing," respectively. She said Tuesday was the coldest of the three elections held during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Doors remained open to get fresh air inside, causing some volunteers to bundle up and use blankets. Hand sanitizer was provided and voters were kept distanced as they filled out their ballots or dropped them off.
Stroud came by briefly to show support to the other candidates. He said he wants them to do "good things" for the town.
"I hope to work with these guys," he said, having been told by doctors that they caught the cancer in time and it has not spread. He plans to continue his service on committees and possibly branch out more.
Gelter and Goodnow had been standing outside in front of the American Legion since polls opened. A photo taken by Select Board Chairman Tim Wessel in the morning showed Chadwick alongside the other two candidates when it was about 10 degrees outside and very windy.
Gelter, a big supporter of the creative economy, had friends show up who she referred to as "the dancing girls." She taught Goodnow some moves after they left.
The night before, Quipp fell down his basement stairs and dislocated his shoulder. He didn't make it to the polls.
"I’m proud of my work in the last two years and would be honored to serve for one more year," he wrote on Facebook. "If elected I will continue to prioritize the health and well-being of our residents. I hope to continue our good work on reforming our community safety systems and helping to make housing more affordable. I will continue to champion investment in our public works infrastructure. I will continue to listen to diverse perspectives on challenging issues and not rush to a decision. I hope that in this year to come we will move out of this pandemic and into a period of recovery and optimism for our town’s future."
At the board meeting held remotely Tuesday, board member Brandie Starr said it was "weird not to be running for office tonight."
"Municipalities have not been isolated from the last 40 years of political incitement," she said. "Some wonderful stuff has come our way."