Board, resident still at odds over zoning issues
by Rolf Parker
Mar 07, 2017 | 2812 views | 1 1 comments | 79 79 recommendations | email to a friend | print
READSBORO- The selectboard met with former planning commission member John Whitman, local assessor clerk Larry Hopkins, planning commission chair Sue Bailey, and other residents to discuss the process of zoning in Readsboro and the existence of zoning decisions of a past zoning administrator for which no documentation of the decision-making process could be found.

Helyn Strom-Henriksen, who is both the selectboard chair and current zoning administrator. said that she had talked with a lawyer from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns who had answered her questions about what limitations and responsibilities a current zoning administrator has related to decisions made by prior zoning administrators. According to a letter from the VLCT that Henriksen read from, statutory interested parties could appeal decisions made by the zoning administrator to the DRB if they did so within 15 days of the decision. She said that while she was working on creating a form that would thoroughly document decisions made by Readsboro’s zoning administrators, her understanding from what the lawyer had written was the absence of documentation of previous decisions does not inherently change their legal standing. “There is nothing that says there needs to be a beginning,middle,and end paper trail. I am creating that, but those decisions can still stand. The attorney has told us you will have a very tough time if you tried to change a decision that was made. We have asked Jason (Klump, previous zoning administrator) for this information. When it goes to the DRB that is when they can ask Jason. ”

Teddy Hopkins asked if specific questions about specific cases in Readsboro could be posed to the lawyers at VCLT, and Strom-Henriksen said that could be done, especially after information about old cases was consolidated. She said that in some cases, the relevant information was distributed over multiple files, and that she and town administrative assistant Rebecca Stone were working on bringing bits of information into one file, with the school property account number on each one.

Strom-Henriksen said that the confusing state of some of the records predated Klump’s time as the zoning administrator.

Strom-Henriksen also said that an entire cabinet shelf full of relevant documents had been discovered this past week. “Right now, my concentration is bringing the zoning into an organized unit that has a paper trail and accurate information in it. Once that is in place I can then review older files to ensure that no violation exists.” She also said that she had created a form that future zoning administrators could use, that required them to fill in crucial information that had not been recorded in the past.

Strom-Henriksen and Stone said that in cases where no permit could be found for known structures, letters had been sent and phone calls made, requesting either the production of a permit or an application, and that the individuals had been given deadlines and information about possible fines.

Whitman said that he was asking for action on the records, not on specific violations. “I think what I asked was misunderstood,” Whitman said. “I wasn’t asking that the zoning administrator change any old decisions. What I care about is the status of the records. Larry knows a lot. There are things that we know are not in the records. In one case no zoning application was found, and no site visit was found.” Whitman also said he thought that there was some confusion caused by the wearing of multiple hats. “All three of you people are selectboard members. If the ZA has reason has reason to believe that a zoning violation exists you don’t need complainants. The zoning administrator works for you. The SB should be ordering that the records are up to snuff.”

“Which I said we were doing,” said Strom-Henriksen.

Selectboard member David Marchegiani asked Larry Hopkins if he would take on the job of zoning administrator, since he seemed to be very familiar with the all the cases. Hopkins declined. “I won’t bail you out. It’s your responsibility,” he said.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Larry Hopkins
March 08, 2017
I feel some very important points may not have come out here.

I contacted the Sec of States Office regarding this concern of reopening cases that were deemed closed,no documentation available, yet the violations were obvious. They did provide the avenue to reopen.

This avenue was what was supposed to be asked of the VLCT, and reported they agreed with the Sec of States process.

The question was asked directly....the Sec of States Office said how it can be done, VLCT confirmed it, so are you reopening them? Seems like a simple yes or no answer but a reply was avoided at all costs.

The discussion then shifted to the 15 day requirement for Interested Persons to appeal any decision. That was hilarious on two fronts, one being the files were updated on Feb 8th and all documents back-dated to Jan 1, 2017. How do you meet a 15 day appeal period when the files did not contain the decisions for 39 days after the date of the decision? The second front was its highly illogical to appeal each of the decisions at a cost of $200 each when its the original obligation of the ZA's to do it right the first time and the Selectboard's responsibility to hold them accountable.

I was asked to do the job as reported above, but found it very insulting to be asked by one of the same people who contributed to the problem as both the Interim ZA ( letting violations slide ) and as a Selectboard member who would not hold previous ZA's accountable.

This whole backlog issue and catching up on the newly reported issues would take no longer than two days to complete. The first thing to do is verify the violation and then write a letter to the owner ( templates make this easy ) and put the ball in their court to reply, get a permit and if not follow up with an official violation notice. If a notice of violation is filed in Land Records, it becomes quite an inconvenience when banks or attorneys review records when required.

Easy job...just no guts to do it.

Tough to sign a violation letter, but easy to sign a payroll check.

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