Can the Fayston Development Review Board re-open and reconsider a local permit that has already been appealed to the Vermont Environmental Court?
That’s the issue presented by members of the Fayston Citizens Group, weighing in on whether the town DRB can reconsider the permit it granted to True North Wilderness Program in August.
Since the permit was issued, True North has asked that the DRB reconsider certain conditions. Abuttors John and Liz Levey have argued that Fayston’s zoning does not present reconsideration as an option. The DRB, in consultation with town council, will hold a hearing on November 8 to consider whether to reconsider.
But both True North and the Leveys have already filed appeals of the DRB permit with Vermont Environmental Court. That court, which hears challenges to local zoning decisions, hears all its cases de novo so it is questionable how any local revisions to the permit would be handled at the state court.
“Therefore, since an appeal of the DRB’s decision has been filed, the Environmental Court now has jurisdiction over this matter and will review the applicant’s request for a conditional use permit de novo. The DRB does not have the authority to rule on the motion for reconsideration, and therefore the request made by True North must be denied,” The Fayston Citizens Group wrote.
True North Wilderness sought permission to develop a wilderness therapy school for up to 42 teens and young adults plus up to 14 counselors on a parcel of land known as the Lathrop parcel. It straddles two zoning districts, the soil and water conservation district and the rural residential.
The parcel is subject to a permanent public recreational easement and it abuts the Phen Basin block of the Camel’s Hump State Forest and the Big Basin lands.
True North wants the Fayston Development Review Board to reconsider the permit it received to operate on 650 acres of land near Phen Basin. Adjoiners to the project object to the request for reconsideration, arguing that it is outside the scope of the board’s purview. Those adjoiners also requested reconsideration if the board decides to re-open the hearings.
And now the Fayston Citizens Group (FCG), while objecting to the town reconsidering its decision, also wants to go on record with additional testimony if the DRB re-opens. Specifically, if the DRB reconsiders, the FCG argues that the board will find that the citizens group was not given adequate opportunity to present testimony and concerns during the DRB review process. The FCG argues that the town’s land use regulations cannot be contorted to allow what the DRB has permitted because the yurts in True North’s permanent campsites were incorrectly categorized as temporary shelters or warming huts when the project should more appropriately be considered as a proposed campground – which is not an allowable use in the two districts that make up the Lathrop parcel.
The FCG joins the Leveys and the Big Basin Trust in calling for a more thorough review of the impact of the project on wildlife and specifically in examining whether the project is compatible with the recreational easement that runs with the Lathrop parcel in perpetuity. That easement specifically allows hunting. The FCG and the Leveys are questioning whether state and federal laws that prohibit firearms on schools grounds make the Lathrop parcel incompatible with the school which True North is proposing.