• Town of Weathersfield, Vermont

  • Town of Weathersfield, Vermont

  • Town of Weathersfield, Vermont

  • Town of Weathersfield, Vermont

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Zoning Board of Adjustment
May 9, 2018
Draft Meeting Minutes


1. Call to Order
Ed Morris called the re-organizational meeting to order at 6:45 PM.

Ed Morris asked the Board if there were any nominations for chair. Willis Wood made the motion for David Gulbrandsen to be chair. James Cahill seconded it. James Cahill made the motion for Willis Wood to be vice chair. Ethan McNaughton seconded it. Willis Wood made the motion for Diana Stillson to be secretary. James Cahill seconded it. Willis Wood made the motion for Ethan McNaughton to be clerk. James Cahill seconded it. All the Board members voted in favor of these motions.

The Board then discussed the rules and procedures. The Board changed their regular meeting nights from Wednesdays to the second and fourth Thursdays starting June 1, 2018. They will sign the new rules at their next meeting.

Willis Wood made a motion to close the annual re-organizational meeting at 6:55 PM. James Cahill seconded it. All were unanimous.

David Gulbrandsen called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM.

2. Introductions
Board members present at the meeting were Willis Wood, Ethan McNaughton, James Cahill, and David Gulbrandsen. Ed Morris, the Town Manager, and Sven Fedorow, land use administrator, and Nate Stearns, the Town’s attorney, were also in attendance.

The audience members were Edith Stillson, Don Chabot, Mark Girard, Phyliss and Ross Girard, and Melvin Fink.

3. Comments from the Public
There were no comments from the public.

4. Approval of Prior Meeting Minutes: April 25, 2018

Ethan McNaughton made a motion to accept the minutes of April 25, 2018 with corrections. Willis Wood seconded it. James Cahill abstained. The other Board members voted to accept the minutes. The motion passed.

5. Public Hearing
a. Appeal from Fireside Recreation, LLC, filed by Ross and Phyllis Girard with respect to Notice of Violation regarding Running Bear Campground, Parcel #060010 issued on March 2, 2018

David Gulbrandsen opened the hearing at 7:03 PM. He went over the rules of procedures for both hearings. There was no exparte communication or conflict of interest for the Board members. Ross Girard, Phyliss Girard, Ed Morris, Sven Fedorow, Nate Stearns, and Mark Girard have interested party status and affirmed. Since Melvin Fink will not be providing any testimony, he did not affirm.

Ed Morris stated that on November 30, 2013, Hal Wilkins, previous Zoning Administrator, served a Notice of Violation for operating a mobile home park. In Article 15 of the Bylaws, there is a definition of mobile home park, but there is no definition of campground in the Bylaws. There were negotiations between Running Bear Campground and the Town. He read from a letter dated April 19, 2007 where it stated that the Girard’s would not allow any permanent residents as they work through the negotiations. There were some there now, but they would be leaving at the end of the season. A letter dated October 9, 2007 from deForest Bearse, former Zoning Administrator, stated that the camping season was over and the Town expected the residents to be moved out, except for Beverly Billinger due to her age. Someone from the campground wrote a letter stating that residents are living up there and don’t have to pay taxes on their newer mobile homes. Ed Morris had pictures that were taken in April during their off season. He presented the Board with a pamphlet from Running Bear Campground that stated no overnight camping until April 28th. He presented the Board with a list of EMS calls from the Hartford Communication Center that showed five calls to one trailer for which two were during the off season. With all of this information and what the Town has seen, there are people living there year around which makes them full time residents.

Exhibit #1 was the Notice of Violation issued March 2, 2018. Exhibit #2 was a letter to Thomas Rounds, attorney for the Girard’s, dated April 2, 2007 from the Town’s attorney, Chris Callahan. Exhibit #3 was a letter from Thomas Rounds to Chris Callahan dated April 19, 2007. Exhibit #4 was a letter to Ross Girard from the Town of Weathersfield dated October 9, 2007. Exhibit #5 was a letter to the Town of Weathersfield from Karen Szelangowski dated September 20, 2016. Exhibit #6 was four pages of photographs taken by Ed Morris at Running Bear Campground. Exhibit #7 was the brochure stating the seasons of the campground. Exhibit #8 was the call list from the Hartford Communication Center.

Melvin Fink asked Ed Morris if he knew when the campground was started. Ed Morris stated that he did not. He then asked Ed Morris if he had done any deed research. Ed Morris stated he had not. Melvin then stated that it was built in the late 60’s. He asked Ed Morris if he knew what seasons they had been open from the beginning. Ed Morris stated no, but he did see that they had summer, winter, and winter storage there. He then asked Ed Morris if he agreed that Running Bear Campground was utilized for summer and winter seasonal use. Ed Morris stated that he would have to look into it. He then asked Ed Morris if a non-conforming use was allowed without a variance. Ed Morris stated that it was if it is non-conforming. Melvin Fink then asked if a change was made would a permit be needed. Ed Morris stated that a permit would be. Melvin Fink stated that it is a non-conforming use in that area. He asked Ed Morris if he agreed that it is not allowed in that area. Ed Morris stated that he would have to look it up. Melvin Fink asked if the person could still run it. Ed Morris stated yes as a campground. Melvin Fink asked if it was permitted for the summer. Ed Morris said it was. Melvin Fink asked Ed Morris if winter was seasonal. Ed Morris stated that he would have to look at it with the Town’s attorney.

Melvin Fink wanted to know if Ed Morris had all the correspondence with the Girard’s attorney and the Town of Weathersfield. Ed Morris stated that some of it was done over the phone. Melvin Fink wanted to know from Ed Morris where in the documents that were presented that it states that the owner will not allow any winter camping. Ed Morris stated that he stands with the letters. Melvin Fink asked if there was anywhere where it stated that the Girard’s will give up their right to non-conforming use to conforming use in regards to winter camping. Ed Morris stated that you can see in the letters where the Girard’s said that and from his communication with Chris Callahan. Melvin Fink read parts of Exhibit #4. Melvin Fink states that from the Thomas Rounds letter it states his client’s position in the second sentence of the first paragraph. One of their rights is to keep operating it as a campground since it is non-conforming.

Ethan McNaughton stated that the documents speak for themselves. Melvin Fink asked Ed Morris if the person who wrote Exhibit #5 owns any other property. Ed Morris stated that he does not know. He just entered her letter in for evidence. Melvin Fink stated that the return address for the letter is Newport, NH. Melvin Fink asked Ed Morris who were the people that were there year around. Ed Morris stated that he did not know but has seen people up there. The website says no winter camping and the water is shut off. Melvin Fink stated that there have been people there over the winter since the campground was created. Ed Morris stated that he did not know that and cannot tell you who but would assume Karen Szlangowksi does. Melvin Fink stated that her husband died recently and that she could have been there for a time.

Melvin Fink asked Ed Morris how many mobile homes they have there. Ed Morris stated that the north and south sides have trailers. Melvin Fink asked if he was referring to a park home, or a park model home? Ed Morris said that he was. Melvin Fink stated that there is a difference between a park model RV and a mobile home. He asked Ed Morris how many are park model RV’s. Ed Morris stated that there are two registered as mobile homes. He thinks that one of them is Karen Szlangowksi. Melvin Fink asked Ed Morris if he knew how long she had been there. He stated that he did not. Melvin Fink asked if his clients put them there. Ed Morris stated that he does not know that answer. Melvin Fink stated that it is a park model and it was put there in the late 80’s. He asked Ed Morris that since they were put there in the late 80’s, should they stay there. Ed Morris said no. Ethan McNaughton wanted a definition of park model to see if it relates to the Zoning Bylaws. Melvin Fink stated that if there is an allegation of violation and it is up to the individual to prove it. Ed Morris stated that if it is a camper or something else, there are people living there year around.

James Cahill stated that this is a mobile home park issue and a year around issue. Melvin Fink stated that there is a distinct difference between a mobile home and a park model. Ed Morris stated that he could not verify if it was a park model. Ethan McNaughton asked if it was a park model then it does not meet the violation. Melvin Fink stated that since he is utilizing it year around it must be a mobile home park. Ed Morris stated yes since people are living there year around, it is a mobile home park. Ross Girard stated that park models can be towed with personal vehicles. They have a number plate. Ethan McNaughton stated that if it is towable or removable it is a park model. Ross Girard stated that they are open two season and people cannot live there permanently. He stated that there are no mobile homes there. Ed Morris stated that two homes there are registered with the State of Vermont as mobile homes. Exhibit #9 is the Vermont Mobile Home Uniform Bill of Sale for last name of Wilson. Exhibit #10 is the Vermont Mobile Home Uniform Bill of Sale for the last name of Ryan. Ethan McNaughton asked if Exhibit #6 was a park model. Ross Girard stated that it was and is on blocks. It can be towed away. David Gulbrandsen stated that it could look like a mobile home. Ross stated that it could. The additions were done before he bought the property. Ethan McNaughton asked if those in Exhibit #6 were park models. Ross Girard stated that one of them is a fifth wheel and the others are park models.

Ethan McNaughton asked Ross Girard if campers can build on his land. Ross Girard stated that people have to have their permission first. Then they go to the Town for a permit. There have been no additions or decks since they bought the campground. Park models do not get moved out each season. They do not own any campers. There have been some campers sold, but they have to have our approval prior to the sale. They rent the parcels only. The campers pay for the two seasons. People come and go. Melvin Fink stated that the winter price is different than the summer price. Ross Girard stated that if it is used in the winter, they pay the winter price. If it is just winter storage, then they just pay the winter storage fee. There are three fees; winter, summer, and winter storage. Melvin Fink stated that this is no difference than someone who camps for a night compared to a park model.

Ross Girard stated that during the winter months it could be a traveling nurse, or someone in construction. They do not allow someone to stay just for a night or weekend during the winter. Melvin Fink stated that there have always been rentals in the winter months. Ethan McNaughton asked if the ones in Exhibit 6 have been weekly or monthly since 2007. Ross Girard stated that they have not. They have been by season. Their campers are mostly by the season vs. week to week. He bought it on 2006. Tents could be used up there too. There are some weekend RV’s.

David Gulbrandsen asked why there are no RV’s in the winter. Mark Girard stated that lines could freeze. If there is someone monthly, they can maintain the lines and plow out the site. Ethan McNaughton asked Ross Girard how they would prove in the winter season that it is a resident vs. a camper. Ross Girard stated that he and his wife are the only residents there. Ethan McNaughton asked Ross Girard if everyone in the campground owns another residence. Ross Girard stated that they do and they check on that. Ethan McNaughton asked Ross Girard how he determines if people are living there vs. visiting there. Ross Girard stated that he does not keep track of it. People can go home for a night, weekend, a week, etc. Ethan McNaughton asked what sets you apart from a mobile home park. Melvin Fink stated in Exhibit #6 there are attributes for a park model RV’s. You hitch a truck to a park model with tongue and trailer. They have never been considered mobile homes. They have been there since the late 80’s. They have been in existence since that period of time and are non-conforming. The Girard’s did not put them there. The previous owner had them there and they have been there a long time.

Melvin Fink stated that the enforcement action has to be brought within 15 years of the infraction. You can’t tell us who is living there full-time. Ed Morris stated that he cannot, but by looking at the evidence you could. Nate Stearns stated that the environmental court stated that if the 15-year condition occurred and stopped, then it has ended. If it continues, then each new day starts the 15-year period. Ross Girard stated that the fire department and police have been up there.

Ethan McNaughton stated that people with children cannot stay there in the winter. Ross Girard stated that when they bought the campground, they were told that no children could live there in the winter. Phyliss Girard stated that when she had custody of her grandchildren, she had to approach the Town for permission. Ross Girard stated that no staff lives there except for themselves. They have their own sewage there and a private contractor for trash. Ross Girard stated that there are 12 units who do two seasons. Two of them are for contractors. He stated that sometimes a nurse will have a 90-day contract with the VA. They will have their own RV and might stay 90 days, 6 months, etc. Skirting is used in the winter months so the lines do not freeze. People will take them off during the summer months. Three of the 12 units have skirting. Nine of the twelve are fifth wheel travel campers and three are park models. Ethan McNaughton wanted to know if any of the nine have been moved year to year or changed hands. Ross Girard stated that they have not been moved or had new owners. They try to keep newer campers up there so it does not look run down. The longest person living there was from the early 90’s to 2017 (the Ryan’s). Mark Girard stated that they were grandfathered in.

Ethan McNaughton reviewed sections of Exhibit #3. Ross Girard stated that there were ten permanent residents when they purchased the property in 2007. They agreed in 2007 that there would be no permanent residents. People still use it in the winter. They have other property than in the campground. Ethan McNaughton asked if he was in compliance since they have another home. Ross Girard said yes because they are not there full time. Ethan McNaughton asked Ross Girard if he allows people to stay there year around and does he check on that. Ross Girard stated that he does not monitor the daily/weekly comings and goings. Melvin Fink stated that people have their mail sent to their other residence. Ethan McNaughton stated that if a person was there for 10 months, then 2 months somewhere else, it would be in compliance. Melvin Fink stated that no one stays there for 10 months. Ross Girard stated that some stay there for 6 months because they have a home in Florida. Ross Girard stated that out of the 12 units, some pay to keep theirs open, but are not there all of the time. They may stay a month, leave for a week, etc. No one stays there for more than 6 months.

Ethan McNaughton asked who was on Lot #37. Ross Girard stated that Kimberly Lambert lived there. Ethan McNaughton wanted to know how long she lived there. Ross Girard stated that she stayed there so her husband was close to the hospital. He does not know for sure. She stayed some of the winter and summer season. Ethan McNaughton wanted to know if anyone had used the units for two seasons before 2007. Ross Girard stated that he does not think so. Ethan McNaughton asked if since May 2007 to April 2018 has it been changed on how it is used. Phyllis Girard stated that they purchased it in 2007 with 10 permanent residences and then got the letter that they could not have them. They had to ask them to leave except for three that were grandfathered. She stated that when people come in they rent for two seasons and have another resident to go back and forth to.

Melvin Fink asked Don Chabot if he was familiar with this campground. Don Chabot stated that his father purchased it in 1964, or 1965. Melvin Fink asked if Don Chabot was familiar with the title that he showed him. Don Chabot stated that he was. When his father passed away, he took it back. Melvin Fink asked him if he was familiar with the operations in the 60’s. Don Chabot stated that there was usage in the summer and winter, seasonal, and nightly. They had a manager that lived at the campground. Melvin Fink asked if the campground was used in the winter and summer. Don Chabot stated that is why they had a manager year around. Melvin Fink showed Don Chabot a deed and asked him if he recognized it. Don Chabot stated that his mother sold it to the Raines in 1986. Melvin Fink showed him the deed where it was sold from the Daniel’s to Fireside Recreation LLC in February 2006. He wanted to know if this was the same property. Exhibit #11 was the warranty deed to the property.

Ethan McNaughton wanted to know why it is relevant if in 2007 that there was an agreement as to how the park was being used. Melvin Fink stated that it does not say they can’t use it during the winter months. Ed Morris read parts of Exhibit #4 which mentioned how it stated when the season was over. Ethan McNaughton asked Ross Girard if he signed it. Ross Girard said that he did, but the permanent residents were gone, but they were open all winter in 2007. Ethan McNaughton asked if they informed the Town that people would be there past that date. Ross Girard stated that it was not asked and there had been winter camping there since 1966. I meant that the summer season was over for the year, except for the three that were grandfathered. Ethan McNaughton stated that you weren’t saying that all were out, but just the permanent residents were out and the others were staying. Ross Girard stated that the agreement was about the permanent residents. Melvin Fink stated that the Board cannot just look at that letter. There were continuous correspondences going on between the Town and his client. The April 19th letter forms part of that agreement. Ethan McNaughton wanted to know if there are any temporary residents living there. Ross Girard stated that there are not, only temporary residents rent for the winter, but are not permanent. David Gulbrandsen stated that the Board needs to determine if there are permanent residents there now.

Willis Wood stated that on the brochure you rent in the summer, winter, and seasonal, but no overnight till April 29th. Ross Girard stated that the brochure was before they opened. There is no one night camping, but winter and seasonal can stay. Melvin Fink state that a number of people use it in the winter. David Gulbrandsen stated that it is not that you are open in the winter, it is that it is a year around residence. Melvin Fink stated that there is an assumption that it is year around, but people come and go and own residences somewhere else. Ed Morris asked the Board to look at the violations. It is being used more as a mobile home park vs. a campground. There is no definition of campground but look at the definition of mobile home park. These models are used more like a mobile home. It is being used more like a mobile home park vs. a campground. Ethan McNaughton stated that it is configured as a mobile home park. He wanted to what they would you say if the Board found this to be a mobile home park? Melvin Fink stated that the State of Vermont talks about park model RV’s and long-term use as campground.

David Gulbrandsen asked if the Board would find a park model in a mobile home park. Ross Girard stated that there would be no park models in a mobile home park because they are much smaller. Melvin Fink stated that there is no definition of park model RV campground. The category has never been in the regulations. Ethan McNaughton asked Ross Girard if there was a permanent chaise, had electrical and the average size. Ross Girard stated that there is a permanent chaise and they all have electricity. Most of them are 36 to 38 feet long and the narrowest is 8 feet wide.

Ethan McNaughton referred to the 2007 where there was an agreement to no longer use over the winter season. He wanted to know if they had relinquished their rights to non-conforming rights. Melvin Fink stated that he did not. He reserved all other legal rights. Willis Wood wanted to know if some who owns somewhere else lived there 365 days. Ross Girard stated that no one does. Melvin Fink stated that there are 100 sites there and they all have other addresses. He stated that a mobile home is used most of the time and has full-time residents. It was bought and sold as a campground. If it was a mobile home park, there would be State regulations.

Melvin Find asked Ross Girard if he received the Notice of Violation last year. Ross Girard stated that he did not. Melvin Fink asked Ross Girard if he was involved with discussions with the Zoning Administrator during the period of November and extending into this year. Ross Girard stated that in February and March there were discussions and in November there were discussions with Mr. Wilkins. Melvin Fink presented the Board with emails from Mr. & Mrs. Girard with the Zoning Administrator, Hal Wilkins, in regards setting up a meeting. Exhibit #12 was the chain of emails between Hall Wilkins and Running Bear Campground LLC. Exhibit #13 was the Notice of Violation (2 pgs.) dated November 30th. This was deleted since the applicant did not receive it. Melvin Fink stated that Mr. & Mrs. Girard did not receive the notice on November 30th. James Cahill asked Ed Morris where he had the support for that first bullet in the letter used as a campground. Ed Morris stated that from the letters and Chris Callahan, the Town’s previous attorney. Also, the letters stating the camping season beginning and ending dates.

James Cahill made a motion to close the hearing at 9:00 PM. Ethan McNaughton seconded it. All were unanimous to close this hearing.

b. Consider an application for a Conditional Use Permit to allow the placement of a pre-constructed structure at the Weathersfield Transfer Station, Parcel #030210

There was no exparte communication or conflict of interest with the Board members. Ed Morris affirmed and has interested party status. He stated that parts of the transfer station are located in the floodplain. The eight feet by ten-foot shed would be put on a slab that will be two feet over the floodplain. John Broker Campbell had discussed with the Town about what needs to done there. The electricity will be above the floodplain elevation. The shed will be built to floodplain specifications. It is a pre-made unit and will be placed on the slab. It will be used as a warming hut for landfill employee down in that area.

Exhibit #1 was the application. Exhibit #2 was the site plan dated April 24, 2003. Exhibit #3 was the email from John Broker Campbell dated May 8, 2018. Exhibit #4 was an email from Hal Wilkins dated July 3, 2017.

David Gulbrandsen wanted to know why it had to be located in the floodplain. Ed Morris stated that it had to be there so the operator could see all of the compactors. Exhibit #5 was the amended site plan of the 8 feet by 10-foot slab.

Ethan McNaughton made a motion to close this hearing at 9:18 PM. James Cahill seconded it. All were unanimous to close this hearing.

a. Adjournment
Willis Wood made a motion to adjourn at 9:37 PM. James Cahill seconded it. All were unanimous to adjourn the meeting.

Respectfully submitted,
Diana Stillson