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Town issues notice of violation over height of house

Waitsfield issued a notice of violation to an Old County Road homeowner whose house, as built, exceeds the town's 35-foot height maximum.

The notice to homeowner Susan Lee was dated October 1, 2013, and explains that information reported by her attorney Chris Nordle as well as via parties to an appeal that was heard in Vermont Environmental Court last month indicates that the house exceeds 35 feet in height.

The notice of zoning violation provides Lee with seven days to "discontinue this violation and bring the structure into compliance with the Waitsfield Zoning Bylaws. If you are unable, within the seven-day period specified above, to bring the structure into compliance, you must, within the same period, submit to me a proposed plan to bring the structure into compliance and discontinue the violation," wrote zoning administrator Susan Senning in the letter.

Lee responded in an October 4 letter of violation noting that she had "already begun the process of curing it." She explained that she had only learned that the actual height of the building exceeded the builders' reported height on September 25, the day before an Environmental Court hearing on the appeal. The appeal at Environmental Court was brought by Lee's neighbors who appealed the town Developmental Review Board's decision to uphold a decision by Senning who amended Lee's original building permit twice.

In her letter of response, Lee outlines the actions she is taking including hiring consultant Gunner McCain. She said that she is currently considering several ways to reduce the overall height of the house including raising and terracing flower beds on the front side of the house; raising the Staymat on the side of the garage; raising the grade at the walkout basement and changing the terracing to make the subgrade portion of the basement less than 60 percent.

"As you know, the builder's certificate of height, which both the town and I accepted as accurate, was not. I learned for the first time of the likelihood of an error in this certification on September 25, 2013. Throughout this entire project, I have acted in good faith to comply fully with the rules and procedures, and I will continue to do so to cure this violation. Although I need to rely on the schedule of the various contractors and the weather, I expect to be able to complete the correction within one month and will make every effort to finish it sooner than that," Lee wrote.

At issue originally was a 2012 building permit issued by the town zoning administrator that was amended twice and the neighbors are concerned that the amended building permits do not comply with the house dimensions and location specified in the first building permit.

With the 2012 appeal to the DRB, the neighbors outlined their concerns about how the Lee house was to be screened – which had been spelled out in a permit that allowed the subdivision of the property that Lee bought. The neighbors also objected to how the house location on the lot and dimensions changed over the course of two amendments to the original permit.

During the appeal to the DRB, the neighbors also raised the issue of the height of the building, which became part of the September 26 merits hearing before Vermont Environmental Court. Judge Walsh gave the parties until October 25 to submit any further pleadings or materials and will then issue a written decision.

The Vermont Environmental Court case where the height of the house became evident is an appeal brought by Lee's neighbors over how the town handled permitting for the Lee house.

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