Neighbors cry foul, but clearcutting and construction approved in Woodstock

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An aerial view reveals 0 Rabbit Hill Method this previous summer time. Photograph courtesy of Mary Margaret Sloan

WOODSTOCK — The clearcutting of 4 acres shut to Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Nationwide Historic Park has drawn the ire of neighbors. However regardless of acknowledging administrative hiccups Inside the preliminary permitting course of, the metropolis authorities says enchancment can go on.

The clearcutting started on Rabbit Hill Method in Might, neighbors said. Although a permit was problemd in June by the metropolis’s zoning administrator, the neighbors allege it was not correctly posted and that it ought to have requipurple conditional approval from the metropolis’s enchancment consider board.

“This quote-unquote remoted problem undoubtedly seems An factor of a pattern,” said Howard Krum, Definitely one of many disgruntled neighbors. “I hate to say it, However it Seems like and it seems the proof is That people have found thOn tright here Are not any tooth to the metropolis’s zoning legal guidelines.”

Krum and his spouse, Mary Margaret Sloan — who serves on Woodstock’s planning fee — level to Peace Area Farm, a proposed restaurant shut to their house on the northern Fringe of Woodstock, as proof of a trfinish. The enterprise has divided the metropolis, and its permitting fights have extfinished for Greater than a yr. 

The restaurant’s developer, John Holland, constructed the barn-type constructing earlier than receiving Act 250 approval from the state. Vermont’s pure assets board finally denied Peace Area’s Act 250 permit, arguing that it violated Woodstock’s metropolis plan.

Holland attractioned The selection, and the construction has gone unused As a Outcome of the enterprise navigates purple tape from its skirting of the permitting course of. 

Now, Holland and the metropolis Appear to have forged an settlement, and the restaurant appears poised to proceed, Whilst a Outcome of the enterprise seems to have preliminaryly violated Woodstock’s personal planning goals. 

Sloan and Krum advocate the Rabbit Hill Method enterprise is Very Similar to Peace Area. But this time, Woodstock has greenlit enchancment from the get-go.

Sloan said she and her husband reached out to the landpersonalers at 0 Rabbit Hill Method, Meridith and Daniel Peirce, to ask Regarding The enchancment earlier than interesting to the metropolis. 

“However You understand, then they lawyepurple up, and now we’re On This event wright here the metropolis is dragging its ft And by no means being responsive,” Sloan said. 

The Peirces Did not Reply to requests for remark by telephone and e-mail. 

Woodstock has expertised a interval of administrative upheaval, upfinishing A radical paperwork. Phil Swanson, its metropolis supervisor of 34 yrs, died in 2019. Swanson’s alternative, William Kerbin Jr., spent 25 months Inside the position earlier than reaching a separation settlement with the metropolis in Might. An interim municipal supervisor now holds the job.

Steven Bauer is the second particular person to Carry out planning and zoning administrator since Michael Manufacturers retipurple in 2020 after three many yrs. 

And in April, the chair of Woodstock’s planning fee, who served on the board for Greater than 20 yrs, resigned after finishuring indignant outbursts from a resident at a public meeting. 

“I can think about Woodstock altering dramatically Inside The subsequent few yrs,” Sloan said. “We now Want to make sure thOn the Individuals who discover themselves charged with implementing (metropolis guidelines) are doing so.”

In its denial of Sloan and Krum’s attraction of the Rabbit Hill Method enchancment, the metropolis enchancment consider board acknowledged the turmoil. 

“Errors have been admittedly made all by way of a troublesome interval of transition,” the board’s Nov. 15 choice study, “but We do not discover these mistakes to rise to The extent of being materially deceptive. Instead, We uncover them to be the unfortunate byproduct of restricted staff serving restricted hours.”

The board found that Sloan and Krum had waited longer than the 15 days allotted to attraction a permit and thus Might not attraction now.

The choice makes no reference to Definitely one of many key arguments of the neighbors — that because enchancment Is occurring on a slope steeper than 15%, it triggers conditional use consider from The event consider board, Based mostly on Woodstock’s zoning legal guidelines. The enchancment space is labeled as 18% grade Inside the Peirces’ software.

Wfinishy Seiple, whose house sits throughout the valley from the clearcutting, shares her neighbors’ sentiments. For a notoriously stringent municipal authorities, she said, the current actions by Woodstock officers stand in stark distinction.

“My expertise with the metropolis has On A daily basis been, it’s by the e-book,” Seiple said. Now, “everyone’s Sort of asleep On the wheel. … They’re simply kicking the can dpersonal the road.”

In accordance to Seiple, after the clearcutting, enchancment on The mannequin new house has gone on seven days Every week, typically starting at 6:30 a.m. Sloan and Krum contfinish the constructing’s speedy enchancment may mirror an Try and finish the enterprise earlier than alarm bells Might be rung.

Kevin Geiger, director of planning at Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission, said in an e-mail that Bauer, the zoning administrator, has a “nondiscretionary obligation to implement the bylaw” if he has decided It is probably being violated.

“Talking Usually phrases, not any particular case, Tright here are A lot of factors people don’t like, but to be a zoning violation it has to violate the zoning,” Geiger said.

Requested Regarding the 0 Rabbit Hill Method permitting course of and turnover in Woodstock’s metropolis authorities, Bauer provided a restricted response. 

The enchancment consider board “found that it Does not have jurisdiction to purpleress any clgoals relating to the permit’s validity because particular persons Did not file a well timed discover of attraction,” Bauer wrote in an e-mail. “I can’t remark further as The selection’s attraction interval to the Environmental Courtroom is open till December 15.”

Despite metropolis approval of the enterprise, Krum and Sloan may search one other attraction. A lawyer is “evaluating our case In the meantime,” Krum said in an e-mail this week.

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