Cavendish board pushed to establish zoning

** CLARIFICATION: Kristin Kelly, a spokeswoman for GMP, told The Chester Telegraph that the line they are constructing is 1,620 feet and that Act 250 would only be triggered above 2,178.  In quotes that were omitted from the article below, she added that the owner of the property had made a routine request for power to be brought to the property, and that five abutting property owners gave easements, and the town of Cavendish is on board. “Whenever we have a request like this we make sure we have the proper easements and permitting,” she said last Thursday. Kelly added that GMP makes every effort to provide service in the safest and most aesthetically sensitive way.

By Julia Purdy
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Once again, a Vermont town faces the ire of residents who oppose what they consider inappropriate development for rural settings.

At its regular meeting on Monday, June 11, the Cavendish Select Board fielded the demands of three groups of residents to pass zoning and subdivision ordinances to prevent changes they say are in violation of values contained in the Town Plan and harmful to their investment.

Conditions on Tierney Road and Depot Street in Proctorsville were on the agenda and, during the public comment portion of the meeting, Mary Anne Butler, who owns 1715 Brook Road, presented a lengthy letter to the board objecting to the installation of above-ground power lines and poles on 1,600 feet of Brook Road. The wires will extend service to a single-family home now being built farther up the road.

Acknowledging that neighbors have already granted easements, she presented an array of objections, including her belief that the project violates the stated goals in the Town Plan to preserve the rural character of Cavendish and will negatively impact her own property, the Parker farm. She has listed the property on both state and national historic registers.

Butler spoke of the aesthetic values that include the absence of utility poles and streetlights. She also expressed concern that extending the power line will eventually result in “uncontrolled subdivision coming to Brook Road.”

The road’s beauty should not be sacrificed to “short-sighted development to suit individual tastes and desires,” she told the board. In discussion, the board explained that in the absence of subdivision regulations, the town can’t do much. The board suggested that Butler try to negotiate with Green Mountain Power directly.

The distance threshold that triggers Act 249 review is 2,100 feet; if that threshold isn’t met, no notification to the town is required, Town Manager Brendan McNamara added.

** Although her letter only states a distance of 1,600 feet, Butler suggested at the meeting that GMP may be trying to avoid triggering the statute by limiting the true footage of the line. (SEE CLARIFICATION ABOVE)

In an interview, McNamara told The Chester Telegraph that the Brook Road project does not come under Act 249 or 250 review and so party status was not given to the town and GMP was not required to notify the town of its plans. State statutes allow utility companies to work within a town right-of-way, he added. In any case, the town is not in a position to say yea or nay on a proposal but only offer input, he said.

Robin Timko stood up in support of Butler, saying it’s important for residents to speak up about things they feel strongly about, and she commended Butler for doing so. Timko said the Town Plan is the “wish and will” of the townspeople. She called on the Select Board to advocate for the provisions in the Town Plan when they see a “breach.”

Timko suggested that now is the time to revisit the issue of zoning and ordinances.

The need for more stringent regulation was also the gist of the message from residents of Tierney Road, who turned out in force to call for a “Civil Ordinance Requiring Approval For Residential Business Operations.” They delivered a draft ordinance to the Select Board, asking the board to review it.

Those residents are currently in a court battle regarding a proposed quarry at the end of Tierney Road. Backed up by her neighbors, Linda Watson read a statement, saying the lack of zoning allows any kind of business to come in. Residents oppose the quarry on the grounds of devaluation of property, disruption of the peaceful rural character of Cavendish, and safety concerns. Like Butler, they also suspect the developer of deliberately downsizing the scope of the project in order to skirt Act 250 review.

53 Depot St. Proctorsville

Mike Harrington, a homeowner on Tierney Road, said that if anyone is trying to avoid Act 249 or Act 250, the Select Board should be “emboldened and empowered” by zoning ordinances.

Watson appealed to the Select Board to use its authority to enforce the Town Plan by requiring prior authorization to establish an operation in Cavendish.

McNamara acknowledged that zoning is a “hot button” issue in town. He added that the Secretary of State’s office says that zoning must precede any ordinance on use, and said that zoning would be a conversation that would engage the entire town.

Tim Calabrese, of the Cavendish Planning Commission, stood up to explain that zoning regulations were “soundly defeated” 12 to 15 years ago, partially due to the onerous state requirements. He said that zoning must have “teeth” and cannot be a “weak document.” An accompanying issue is administering them, he said.

Assistant Town Manager Bruce McEnaney added that subdivision regulations were also defeated by Cavendish voters.

The third agenda item that continued the theme of town intervention concerned the enforcement of the Dangerous and/or Derelict Building Ordinance for the dilapidated building at 53 Depot St. in Proctorsville, which continues to be a thorn in the side of neighbors in adjacent condominiums.

Neighbors Aaron Silidker and Pat Moore were present to make their case with the backing of their condo associations.

Following up on his promise from the last board meeting, McNamara said he had tried to contact the owner, Rose Kaupinnen, who was out of state at the time. Board member George Timko said that he had spoken to her about the problem and she had told him she would take care of that one “when I get done with this one,” referring to a different property.

The building’s condition has deteriorated for decades, exacerbated by a major fire in the 1980s.

Silidker said a licensed civil engineer who inspected the building said that it was beyond repair and a public health issue. He also cited an earlier agenda item presented by Health Officer Doris Eddy, who is taking steps to resolve perhaps similar public health concerns on Main Street in Proctorsville and Knapp Pond Road.

Silidker asked the town to force the owner to act, using  Title 24, Chapter 61 of Vermont Statutes as leverage, which, he claimed, gives the town authority.

The board remained split on the issue of property rights, with Select Board member Mike Ripley reiterating his opinion that property owners should be allowed to manage their property as they see fit and board member Sandra Russo supporting the need to enforce the ordinance.

George Timko noted the possibility of a protracted legal “situation,” suggesting the town would have to conduct an official engineer’s survey of its own.

McNamara concluded the item, saying “the building isn’t going to get any better” and the town needs to begin the process.

The board then voted to begin enforcement on the property at 53 Depot St., Proctorsville.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: Latest News

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.