Town not owing zoning
Jul 03, 2014 | 2681 views | 8 8 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Residents and property owners in Readsboro appear to be facing a conundrum when it comes to the town’s zoning regulations. As staff reporter Jack Deming reported in last week’s edition (“Residents debate nixing or fixing town’s zoning”) there are many who are so frustrated with the perceived lack of enforcement, or selective enforcement, that they are calling for the town’s zoning to be eliminated altogether.

While that may seem extreme to some, it does appear on the surface that Readsboro’s zoning process is a hot mess.

The issue came to a head at a public meeting held by the planning commission in response to a petition. At that meeting, complaints were aired and accusations flew, but very little concrete evidence was offered to support those accusations. If petitioners really think zoning is as poorly or selectively enforced as they say, evidence will need to be offered. That will be the only way to get to the root of the problem.

Of course, offering that evidence may be problematic in its own right. As so often happens in a small town, residents will make vague accusations but stop short of concrete evidence. Neighbors are often loathe to call out neighbors, for obvious reasons. But if zoning is being enforced selectively, or if permits are issued based on anything other than what the ordinances require, at some point push has to come to shove and concrete examples have to be given. It’s one thing to say those things are happening, but it will take more than a meeting and vague accusations to prove them.

Regardless of the whys and wherefores of the current Readsboro spat, it’s important to consider how complex zoning can be, even in a town of less than 800 residents like Readsboro.

There are a lot of moving parts to zoning. The voters, the planning commission, the development review board, the zoning administrator, and selectboard all have a role to play. All of them, to some degree, have to buy into the concept of zoning and placing reasonable limits on individual construction or large-scale developments for the common good of the community.

At its best, zoning can be a very useful tool for a community to not only control growth in a sensible way, but to actually stimulate it by creating zones that make sense for certain segments. Residential areas, commercial areas, recreational area, and industrial areas can and should be controlled by effective, sensible zoning.

Think of what might happen without zoning in Readsboro. Building in flood-prone areas could go unchecked. Readsboro has already lost three properties as a result of flooding from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, and more are being threatened by continuing erosion as a result of that flooding. Imagine what might occur without zoning to control how and where buildings are constructed. They might be built on the river’s edge. If the town had no zoning, would they be eligible for flood insurance, or disaster relief if the unthinkable should happen again?

Historic properties might be razed for new development. What if the Bullock Building were torn down to make way for low-income housing. Zoning and the development review process would create a forum for residents to review and discuss that. Without those things, that wonderful historic building could be gone in a week or less.

As was pointed out in last week’s meeting, someone may decide to raise pigs or cattle in the center of the town. Or someone may build a chemical plant next to the school. Extreme examples, for sure, but without zoning there may be little to be done about it should it occur.

While there are other land-use laws that may be applied to certain developments, such as the state’s Act 250 development law, most are designed to work in concert with local zoning. Without it, the process becomes more convoluted and certainly gives less local control to the community and residents who would be most affected.

For zoning to work, it has to be fully supported. Much of the enforcement of zoning falls to the Development Review Board and the zoning administrator. They need to feel supported by town officials and the general public. Without that support, there will be more trepidation than anticipation to follow through with the zoning process and enforcement.

Residents and officials in Readsboro need to get to the root of the zoning problems. If permit issuance or enforcement is selective, then evidence needs to be presented. If building is being done with blatant disregard for zoning regulations, then officials need to know so enforcement or remedies can be carried out.

Without proof of the problems, the knee-jerk reaction of eliminating zoning seems extreme. If things in Readsboro get to the point where voters will be called upon to decide whether or not zoning has a future in the community, they deserve concrete, not vague and anecdotal, evidence that their zoning process is so far gone it can’t be saved.
Comments
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WhatsNext
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July 07, 2014
I estimated 30 miles because I was told this paper originates in West Dover, not Wilmington. I do not know the actual distance from Wilmington to West Dover and guessed. That is not the point of the comment
rustybolt
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July 07, 2014
This all started because the author of the petitions buddy did not get chosen for the ZA position.He happens to be the ex ZA who made a mess of thing that's why he wasn't re appointed.The selectmen had the foresight not to reappoint him fearing more large bills from the Valley lawyer.
WhatsNext
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July 07, 2014
I am not sure of much of the history behind the appointments and previous issues to which you speak, but from reading the articles and asking about, it appears there has been no activity on behalf of any of the ZAs that followed anyway.

Maybe if people knew they had to follow the rules as approved by the town they would comply from the outset and not incur any bills for either themselves or the town. It appears so far out of hand now that any time enforcement is appealed it will be a cost to all involved.

I was also told the last official violation done in Readsboro cost the appellants thousands of dollars, and although they were in clear violation, bought their way out of it at a huge expense. That was before my time here.
HittheNailRightontheHead
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July 07, 2014
The Listers are concerned because of their need to properly assess the structures which do not have a permit. It is the permit which triggers the Listers to act in the interest of all Readsboro taxpayers to assure everyone is paying their fair share.
ForTheChildren05350
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July 05, 2014
Been told the ZA has since resigned?
WhatsNext
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July 07, 2014
I believe so. Seems like until the position gets filled, the Chairperson of the Board of Selectmen assumes the position, and that individual was one who sat on the Planning Commission and was referred to as one who contributed in decisions that led to the petition.

Is it now a case of the fox watching the chickens?
WhatsNext
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July 04, 2014
Not sure why the editor feels he needs to be made aware of concrete evidence as he is 30 miles removed from the situation. The residents are fully aware of the problems in the system and who is responsible . I am sure the correct determination will be made locally without the need for details available to outsiders.
Balonius
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July 07, 2014
Anyone who thinks Readsboro is 30 miles from Wilmington is either an "outsider" or a nitwit. The two towns share a common border.