OFFICE OF THE ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT
TOWN OF HALIFAX, VERMONT
ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT PUBLIC HEARING MINUTES
January 4, 2021
Chair Turner Lewis opened the public hearing to consider the Stephen Smith and Meghan Arthur subdivision request at 7:23 PM. Zoning Board of Adjustment members present were William Pusey, and Tommy Fox. Kaitlin Stone and Jason Ashcroft were unable to attend. Also present were Tina & Paul Blais, Patricia Dow, Judy Armbruster, William Moore, Pete Silverberg, Steven Chait, Meghan Arthur, and Stephen Smith.
Turner Lewis read the public hearing notice for the record, as follows: Stephen Smith & Meghan Arthur of 102 Thomas Road, Guilford VT have submitted a notice of appeal regarding a decision of the administrative officer dated December 5, 2020 for a property located at 615 Vaughn Road in the Town of Halifax. The proposed project is as follows; to subdivide creating a non-conforming lot being 200+/- feet wide by 460+/- feet deep on the South West corner of our land that lies east of Vaughn Road approximately 2.01 acres.
The Town of Halifax Zoning Board of Adjustment will hold a hearing on this application on January 4, 2021 at 7:00 PM.
This hearing will be held by teleconference. The phone in number is 1 (623) 600-3745 and the conference code is 673780.
Pursuant to 24 V.S.A. 4464(a) (1) (C) and 4471(a), participation in this local proceeding is a prerequisite to the right to take any subsequent appeal.
Lewis also read a letter that was written and submitted by Stephen Smith and Meghan Arthur with their Notice of Appeal. Request for variance:
December 5th, 2020
In March of 2020, we agreed to sell 27 acres of our Vaughn Road property to Emily Vail, who had contacted us through a mutual friend. 25 of those acres consist of a single contiguous parcel west of the road. As part of the sale we promised the new owner access to Vaughn Brook for fishing and swimming, and to the rare true old growth forest that straddles Vaughn Brook, by adding to their 25 acre parcel an area of land 200’ wide by over 460’ deep, being the south west corner of our land that lies east of Vaughn Road. We intended to include this in one deed to Vail as one 27 acre parcel.
At the time, we were not aware that the Halifax Zoning regulations forbade a lot of this dimension, only that the minimum required for a dwelling be larger. We chose this area specifically so it would not be a conforming building lot, partly in order to protect the rural character of the neighborhood.
If we are not granted this variance, our only other recourse is to give Vail the promised access to the brook and forest will be to create a conforming 3 acre, 300 ft. lot which any future owner could use to add yet another dwelling on Vaughn Road.
Lewis solicited comments and questions from those present. Chait asked how the hearing was posted because he did not see it on the website and wanted to make sure it was warned properly. Paul Blais acting as moderator looked on the website and explained to Chait where to find it. Tina Blais, secretary also informed Chait that it was posted in the Deerfield Valley News as well as the Post Office, the Town Office, Halifax Center and at the property in question. Pusey asked if there was still such a thing as Life Rights meaning you can deed the rights to use the land without any acreage. Smith stated that that they have a purchase and sale agreement stating that they are selling either a 27-acre lot or a 28-acre lot that would create a building site. It was not their intention to ever deed them a right of way. Pusey stated that adding an extra acre would make it a legal building lot and what would the problem be with that. Smith stated that they felt that it would be better to not create another house lot they only wanted to give them access to the forest and brook. Smith stated that if their request were denied they would promptly apply for a conforming 3-acre subdivision. Lewis stated that speaking as the Chair he feels leery about granting a non-conforming lot like this one. He is afraid that if one is approved you will have to approve others. He states that he sympathizes with Smith and Arthur but feels as though it is a sensitive area and should stick to town regulations. Fox also states that he agrees with Lewis, feels as if the town regulations can easily be met then we should follow them. Pusey was wondering if a statement can be put in the purchase and sale agreement saying something like there shall never be a house built on the site. Lewis said he had no info on that but could do some research. Armbruster states that she would rather see a 2-acre non-conforming lot there instead of another building lot. Lewis states that he understands and would like to see some kind of wordage in the deed as to not being able to build on the lot. Armbruster agrees. Dow states that she is not in favor of the non-conforming lot. We have the town guidelines and regulations that we should follow if there is no constraint that would not allow the owner to subdivide per the regulations. She also states that when you add all that extra wordage in a deed the property will then become much harder to sell in the future. She also wanted the board to be aware that she has had calls to the town office with people inquiring about nonconforming lots and if we grant them, we will not have a basis for denial in the future. Lastly she reminded the board that the road will create a natural subdivision so even if that parcel is made into a 2 acre parcel it can still be sold as a non-conforming lot in the future. Silverberg asked for clarification on the road being a natural subdivision. Dow explained that any road or waterways create a natural subdivision. Silverberg feels as though even though it is a natural subdivision and non-conforming it does not bother him. Armbruster states that they could avoid all of this by selling her the property. Chait asked if anyone has considered a conservation easement to prevent it from being developed because it does get used to get to the stream and woodlands. Lewis asked the board members for their thoughts. Fox feels as though they should stick to the guidelines as well as Pusey. Pusey is also wondering if the 2 acres are not approved does the 3 acres affect the price of the property and sale. Smith states that is does not.
Fox made a motion to deny the request for an appeal with the recommendation that they go for the 3-acre subdivision. Pusey seconded the motion, which passed 3-0.
Fox made a motion to adjourned Pusey seconded the motion.
The public hearing adjourned at 7:54 PM.
Zoning Board of Adjustment Secretary