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The Valley Reporter
P.O. Box 119
Waitsfield, VT 05673

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DRB grants True North permit - with ownership clause

True North Wilderness Program (TNWP) received town permission to continue its therapeutic wilderness program for teens on property owned by Tom Barefoot and Joni Zweig as long as ownership of the parcel does not change.

True North is run by Barefoot and Zweig's daughter Madhuri Maves and her husband Tyler Maves. True North representatives applied for permits to add two composting toilets on the 25 acres of land where it operates on Dana Hill Road. The land is located in Waitsfield's agricultural/residential zone as well as in the forest reserve district. Adjoining landowner Kinny Perot raised concerns about the impact of True North's year-round semi-permanent operations on wildlife, character of the area and water.


The Waitsfield Development Review Board, which reviewed the application, issued a permit on November 20 that ties the allowed use to the ownership of the land. The condition reads:

"Landowners Tom Barefoot and Joni Zweig may continue to allow TNWP to conduct its program, as described in application materials, as a second principal use on their parcel, subject to the conditions herein. The parcel and approved uses shall remain in common ownership. Should ownership of the parcel or TNWP change to anyone other than the applicants, TNWP shall cease operation on the parcel immediately upon the change in ownership. In the event the land is sold to anyone other than TNWP under its current ownership, Board approval of a new Conditional Use application shall be required to resume this use."

The DRB held hearings on the project during the summer and fall and held a site visit to the property. At a November 9 hearing, the DRB received documentation from Perot's attorney, David Grayck, indicating that True North Wilderness requires an Act 250 permit, that it is considered a school by the state of Vermont (and a residential child care facility) and that the Vermont wastewater permit numbers do not match those on the local permit application.


At that same meeting, the DRB received an amended site plan from the applicants demonstrating that two permanent tent platforms would be moved away from onsite streams and that is also a condition of the permit.

At issue before the DRB were several items. First, can the use be accommodated under the zoning that affects the ag/res and forest reserve portions of the property? Second, if the uses can be legally permitted under the zoning, do the changes in use pass the conditional use review criteria, which include, among others, not changing the character of the area and not impacting the environment and wildlife?


In arriving at its decision, the DRB acknowledged that the state considers True North to be a school (something not permitted in those districts in Waitsfield) but that it could also be considered an outdoor recreational use that is an accessory use to Barefoot and Zweig's use of the 25 acres as a camp.  The 25-acre Zweig/Barefoot parcel is located in the ag/res district as well as in the forest reserve district and also abuts the Howe Block of the Camel's Hump State Forest. Most of True North's activities take place on a small parcel of land in the ag/res district. The rest take place in the forest reserve section as well as on adjoining state forest lands.

The DRB decision allows True North to keeps its two composting toilets where they were placed prior to the application for the toilets being submitted. The DRB decision also includes a provision allowing a third composting toilet to be installed.



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