Readsboro voters petitioned to abolish zoning in 2014. The reason was the zoning department’s reluctance to apply the bylaws as approved by the voters. In March 2015, the selectboard asked the voters to raise additional funds to hire a qualified administrator with a focus on the 18 violations that preexisted. The voters accepted their plan and zoning remained. Unfortunately, the plan failed miserably.
There was no oversight, no site visits done, and no violations ever issued. The zoning department has avoided sites of violations, made up their own rules and excuses that did not exist in the bylaw, and wrote decisions of “owner contacted...no violation...closed.” It was apparent the zoning department refused to verify a violation, took whatever the owner said as true, and “closed” the issue just to get it off the books.
Zoning administrator duties and obligations are clearly defined in the zoning administrators’ handbook which states they must act on reported violations and must apply the rules as adopted. (It says must, not may or should.) In three years, the list has grown from 18 to 35 mishandled situations.
There was a new petition submitted last spring to vote zoning out again. The planning commission held its hearing in July 2017 and stated they had no idea what the issues were. That was completely false as I attended that meeting fully prepared to speak of every detail of the 35 issues, but I was told “We are not here to name names or speak of specifics.” The only way to make them aware was to present details and cite specifics, but I was refused. I did not attend the selectboard hearing in December 2017 as I knew they would not want to hear details and specifics, and I was right. These governing bodies seem to feel like it was a job well done as they noted no one has appealed any of the decisions. It was obvious they do not know the statutory requirements a person must meet to lodge any appeal. One must qualify as an “interested person,” and be recognized as such, and can not be just a concerned citizen. No decisions were ever hung for public review, thus no one could be aware of the actions and any appeal has to be done in 15 days at a cost of $200 each. That’s a lot of money even if qualified to appeal. It appears to be to be a convenient way to just bury them, get them off the books and move on.
The bylaw states all structures “must” be permitted, but when the storage units were reported in the fall of 2016, they were initially ignored. In the spring of 2017 the zoning department made up their own rule that they could remain, but after six months they would no longer be considered temporary and a permit required. Over a year has gone by and still no permits. The last seven camps have all been treated differently, some ignored and some voluntarily applied and had to jump through hoops to be approved.
The zoning department may send out letters seeking voluntary compliance and refuses to issue any violations. If an owner voluntarily submits an application, that’s fine and if they do not, that’s fine also. We are wasting tax dollars to keep this dysfunctional department afloat.
We appropriate thousands of dollars each year and should be getting revenue from application fees to offset the zoning administrator’s salary to remove the financial burden from the taxpayers. It should even be profitable.
Subdivisions and wastewater both come under state guidelines so that would not be an issue. Would it even be better? About 30% of towns do not have zoning and function well. If anyone seeks more details, you can contact me at (802) 423-7727. Please vote “yes” on March 6 to repeal zoning.