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Worthless Zoning - Muriel Potter

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Worthless zoning

To the Editor:

Northeast Kingdom Human Services (NKHS) of St. Johnsbury apparently approached Justin Smith, Zoning Administrator of Lyndon, in September 2013, to check permits for emergency crisis center in a rented home that was for sale smack in the middle of closely settled Finney Hill. No written word of the conversation, no application filled out, and no permit posted on the lawn as advance warning to neighbors. We'll never know the whole story of how NKHS talked their way into gaining approval.

Neighbors given several reasons by Justin Smith of why NKHS was allowed to be there: zoning definition of a family includes six unrelated persons living together; 24 VSA 4412(1)(G) allows a residential or group home; it was not a change of use. We'll never know since there is no written word.

On December 5th, we neighbors disputed above reasons and showed it was a change of use: three shifts per day of staff and a rotating clientele, are not "family"; NKHS is not state-licensed so not protected under 24 VSA 4412(1)(G); State Fire Marshal is only authorized to inspect because it had employees, as in a business; Act 250 Jurisdictional Opinion, is a change of use from residential use, due to there being staff and clients.

NKHS's attorney could not disprove the facts. Complained that discrimination laws (ADA, FHA, the Rehab. Act of 1973 and the VT State Accom. Act) should be considered in case DRB determined 24 VSA 4412(1)(G) did not apply. We'll never know if they gave this as another reason to Justin Smith back in September, or just on the fly here.

This attorney also made the statement to everyone that if the DRB does not find in their favor that they have a $30+ million dollar budget and they never lose a case. We'll never know if this perceived threat dealt the final blow to the neighbors.

DRB's decision: NKHS is not licensed under 24 VSA 4412(1)(G); not considered to be a single family residence by the By-Laws; failure to permit NKHS's facility would be discriminatory under the federal acts and laws above, so the neighbors' appeal is denied. (A review by the common person shows it's about renters and buyers. These clients are neither; not renting nor buying.) We appealed to Court, but dropped it. Money wins.

I have to liken this situation to confiscation by eminent domain, because our zoning by-laws are worthless since the state/federal government can infringe their will upon me, you and your neighbors whenever they wish. We'll never know what neighborhood they will choose next.

Muriel Potter

Lyndonville, Vt.


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