Weston board mulls zoning enforcement, talks reappraisal

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

At its Tuesday, Aug. 24 meeting, the Weston Select Board heard from Zoning Administrator Will Goodwin who spoke about a rewrite of the town’s development bylaws and asked whether the board wanted to move forward on enforcing violations of the zoning regulations.

Will Goodwin – seen between Jim Linville’s shoulder and Annie Fuji’i’s chair in Weston’s idiosyncratic Zoom style – fills the board in on zoning matters. Images courtesy of GNAT

Goodwin told the board that there is a relatively small amount of grant funding available to support the work to rewrite the bylaws but he was uncertain how much to ask for. He thought that he could do a lot of the work himself rather than hiring a consultant as Londonderry and Chester did. Goodwin would then ask the Windham Regional Commission to review his work. Board members agreed.

Goodwin then asked if the board wanted to bring zoning enforcement actions suggesting three cases to start. Those include a man Goodwin says is operating a home-based business without a permit who does not live there and another who is doing the same thing and has put up two buildings without permits. Finally he said that the Village Store has “many, many times the number of signs”  allowed.

Board members asked what steps he had taken so far. Goodwin said he had sent notices of violation to all three but had received no response from any. Board member Jim Linville asked if the bylaws are clear in the requirements for operating a home-based business and Goodwin said they are.

“How’s it going to look if we spend a bunch of money running after these folks and then the Planning Commission relaxes, changes the rules and some of this complies,” said board chair Denis Benson.

Board member Annie Fuji’i suggested that a conversation works better than sending a letter and Linville agreed.

Board member Charles Goodwin moved to move on and discussion of the topic ended.

Reappraisal – likely to be years in the future – is about fairness

Lister Greg Carroll told the board he and Lister Dan Hanenberg had been in touch with companies that make reappraisal software and conduct reappraisals and that he has received several timeframes for completing an appraisal. He said he hoped they could do it next year, but one company has work scheduled through 2025.

Lister Greg Carroll, center, tells the board that reappraisal is all about fairness

Carroll also said that Cy Bailey, a valuation and review assessment expert with the state of Vermont, had visited and was adamant that reappraisals are about fairness to the owners. Carroll pointed to interior photos of homes on real estate websites where you can see all the upgrades made since the last appraisal in 2005. Carroll said those owners are “getting a break” on taxes while someone who’s getting older – maybe lost a spouse – and is not able to keep the property up as well may be paying too much.

As far as values go, Carroll noted that the homes are changing hands more often for higher prices and that enters into the appraisal equation. There are 633 properties in Weston, according to Carroll, 24 of which are commercial, 100 are open land and the remainder — roughly 500 — residences. The average number of “arms length” sales (in which a buyer has no relation to the seller and it is not a distress sale) over the past three years has been around 20. But from April 2020 to March 2021 year, there were 30 such  sales.

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