Dover Watch was established in the 1980s by Eugene Ettlinger. There are four 16-unit buildings on the premises and they are rented year-round on a weekly basis. Dover Watch is located on Valley View Road.
According to delinquent tax collector Mary Lou Raymo, Dover Watch owed $110,984.02 in back taxes, $63,953.58 in interest, and a late penalty fee of $8,878.74. Raymo said Dover Watch’s taxes have been accruing since 2003. Raymo said Dover Watch sent small dollar amounts, the payments were sporadic, and they continued to fall behind in their taxes. As a result, the town purchased approximately 43% of Dover Watch’s units for $189,503.33. The remaining units belong to Alan Iglitzin and a number of other time-share owners.
Over the years, Dover Watch has struggled to be a financially viable business venture. Dover Watch representatives maintain if they can build more condominiums on site, more revenue will be generated and they can pay their taxes. But the Dover Watch Owners’ Association believes current zoning laws are prohibiting Dover Watch from building more units.
The town of Dover implemented zoning regulations in 1969 but discontinued them in 1979. Susan Gunderman, president of the Dover Watch Owners’ Association, said Dover Watch was constructed at a time when there were no zoning laws. During that time, Dover Watch wanted to build four new buildings (or 16 units) on 16 acres of land. Dover Watch began construction, but in 1988, new zoning bylaws went into effect. Dover Watch was grandfathered into the new zoning bylaws and could proceed with their construction. But their Act 250 permit expired during Ettlinger’s ownership and as a result, the project was put on hold.
In 2007, the planning commission changed the density requirements for a productive residential zone from one acre per unit to five acres per unit. But Dover Watch had already built the maximum number of units under the old density regulations and they were not permitted to continue under the new density regulations. “We had no clue it was happening,” said Gunderman. “We don’t get the notices on that sort of thing because we don’t live there.”
Dover Watch’s other alternative was to request a resort zoning designation. A resort zoning designation includes a broad range of residential, nonresidential, and lodging uses, and would allow Dover Watch to continue building. Gunderman and other Dover Watch Owners’ Association representatives made their case before the planning and zoning commissions, the selectboard, and the Dover Economic Development Committee.
Dover Watch was told the planning commission determines the new zoning bylaws but the selectboard is the overriding committee that makes the final decision. Nicholas Wallaert, planning commission chair, recalls Dover Watch’s presentation to switch to a resort district. According to Wallaert, the planning commission thought their argument was “far-fetched” and did not meet the necessary requirements to be designated a resort district. “The only resort area we have is Mount Snow. We didn’t think it resembled Mount Snow in any way,” said Wallaert.
Wallaert said the planning commission was also concerned with establishing a resort area within a residential area. Allowing a special designation for Dover Watch may result in unforeseen and unintended consequences in the town plan and the planning commission believed the town plan needs consistent zoning. “There has to be a logical pattern in our mapping,” said Wallaert. “The density has to be balanced in the town. Mount Snow is justifiable, but if we expanded resort zoning into other areas, the density would become erratic.”
Dover Watch now has another option in changing the zoning bylaws. According to town clerk Andy McLean, voters can petition to adjust the town plan’s bylaws. If enough signatures are obtained, an informational meeting is held, and voters decide on the issue at Town Meeting. Gunderman said she is aware of the alternative, but Dover Watch is unsure whether they will pursue it.
However, Gunderman now believes the town isn’t interested in meeting their needs and their ability to pay their taxes has been compromised. “If they had thought about it and allowed us to be zoned according to the use we are, our taxes would’ve been paid and there would be more commerce in the valley,” said Gunderman.
Dover Watch now has one year to pay back all the taxes they owe or the properties will remain in the town’s hands. Dover Watch continues to rent out individual time-share units.