Small Dog Electronics went before the Waitsfield Zoning Board of Adjustment in 2005 to request that we be allowed to amend our permit for a few minor changes. One change would have allowed us to be open a couple hours later, two nights a week and the second was to be allowed to be open on the Sunday(s) when and if the state declares a tax-free weekend. We were denied these changes.
We were told: "The Board finds that opening on Sundays would have a deleterious effect on the character of the area, it being in the AR Zoning District." It was further explained that pursuant to Section 3.8 (B) (4) of the Bylaws that, "A nonconforming use: shall not be moved, enlarged, or increased by any means whatsoever, except with the approval of the Board of Adjustment subject to the conditional use review under Section 5.3."
In other words, they are allowed to make the change IF they want to. It is a subjective decision. At the time of the denial we faced some intense negativity from a few people. We were totally caught off guard by the negativity at the meeting and had no supporters present.
But, we accepted that denial. We certainly didn't like it, but we accepted it until something came to our attention.
One need only read the decision on Case #3099-CU, 1824 House, to see that even after listing many more reasons why it shouldn't be allowed than were listed against Small Dog's application, their amendment was approved. The DRB explained the decision with the following paragraph.
"Notwithstanding the Board's conclusion with regard to the proposed 60-seat restaurant, consideration was also given to the authority granted by the bylaw to allow not only the continuation of non-conforming uses, but to allow their being "enlarged (and) increased" subject to the conformance with the conditional use standards. While a standard principle of municipal zoning is to seek the discontinuance of non-conformities over the long term, the Town of Waitsfield has opted to adopt a regulation that is PERMISSIVE in allowing landowners to continue to invest in non-conforming uses with the clear intent of maintaining their viability indefinitely."
In what is clearly a case of expansion of a non-conforming use, this permit request was examined with far more flexibility than that of Small Dog Electronics. They also sit within the Ag/Res district, are located on Route 100, and have residential neighbors and as such, the situations are pretty much the same. A reasonable person would have thought the approvals/denials would have been as well. Evidently, what we lacked was the show of support.
We are asking you to help us get this amendment re-examined. Please write a letter on our behalf or attend the meeting. It is important that we are able to show the select board that we have the support needed to be open for the tax-free Sunday.
The tax-free weekend is July 12 and 13 this year. The select board meeting is on June 2 at 7:30 p.m.
Don Mayer is president of Small Dog Electronics.