Articles Posted in Vermont Supreme Court

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This appeal involved a dispute between two neighbors over the construction of a pergola on the shore of Lake Champlain in Swanton. The Environmental Division consolidated three related proceedings concerning this dispute and concluded that the Town of Swanton was equitably estopped from enforcing its zoning regulations and that the pergola, which did not comply with those regulations, could remain. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re Langlois/Novicki Variance Denial" on Justia Law

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Neighbors were a group of property owners in the neighborhood of PATH at Stone Summit, Inc.’s proposed therapeutic community residence in Danby. They appealed the Green Mountain Care Board’s decision that the proposed project could proceed without a certificate of need under 18 V.S.A. 9434(a)(5). The Vermont Supreme Court concluded the appeal is not properly before it because Neighbors failed to timely file a petition to become interested parties. Accordingly, the Court dismissed Neighbors’ appeal. View "In re PATH at Stone Summit, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal tested the limits of a town’s authority to enforce a noise ordinance against a sport shooting range’s historically established operations. Plaintiff North Country Sportsman’s Club received multiple citations from defendant Town of Williston for allegedly violating the Town’s noise ordinance. The Club sought a declaration that under state law and the Town ordinance that the Town lacked authority to enforce the ordinance against the Club for a use consistent with its historical usage. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court agreed with the Club and reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding that the as long as the Club’s operations were consistent with its historical operation of the range, the Town could not cite the Club for violating the Town’s noise ordinance. The Town could attempt to apply its noise ordinance to shooting at the range that exceeds the Club’s historical use unless the activity was exempt pursuant to an agreement voluntarily executed between the Town and Club as to its hours of operation. View "North Country Sportsman's Club v. Town of Williston" on Justia Law

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A group of landowners (neighbors) adjacent to a proposed planned unit development (PUD) challenged the Environmental Division’s affirmance of the PUD permit. On appeal, neighbors argued that the Environmental Division improperly required them to amend their original statement of questions and then erred by refusing to consider all of the issues raised by neighbors’ Amended Statement of Questions. Neighbors also claimed that the court erred as a matter of law when it concluded that adequate notice was posted of the public hearing on the PUD permit. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part. The court did not err when it required neighbors to file an amended statement of questions under Environmental Proceedings Rule 5(f). The Supreme Court did concluded, however, that, after requiring neighbors to file a new statement of questions, the court was obligated to resolve all of the issues raised by the Amended Statement of Questions. “The court limited its decision on the merits to those issues specifically relating to PUD regulations. This was error. By declining to specifically address these regulations, the court left open issues presented by the Amended Statement of Questions.” Because the parties presented evidence on the regulations and the regulations were before the court, the Environmental Division should have addressed them in its decision. The Supreme Court concluded the Environmental Division did not err when it determined that Atwood satisfied the notice requirements to obtain approval of the project. View "In re Atwood Planned Unit Development" on Justia Law

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Appellants Natural Resources Board and Applicant Two Rivers-Ottauquechee (TRO) Regional Commission appealed the Environmental Division’s award of an Act 250 permit to Applicant B&M Realty, LLC, to construct a large mixed-use business park near the Interstate 89 Exit 1 interchange in the Town of Hartford. The trial court concluded that the project satisfied Act 250, including the requirement that it conform with the 2007 TRO Regional Plan. The Natural Resources Board and the TRO Regional Commission argued on appeal that the project was inconsistent with mandatory and unambiguous provisions in the regional plan. Applicant cross-appealed, arguing that the 2007 Regional Plan did not apply, and that the Supreme Court need not consider the plan because the proposed development will not have substantial regional impact. The Supreme Court concluded that the 2007 Regional Plan applied and that the trial court’s conclusion that the project will have substantial regional impact is supported by the evidence, but held that the project was inconsistent with several provisions in the regional plan. The Court accordingly reversed. View "In re B&M Realty, LLC" on Justia Law

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The LaBerges appealed the Environmental Division’s affirmance of a Notice of Violation (NOV) issued by the Town of Hinesburg Zoning Administrator (ZA) for violation of a Town noise ordinance arising from use of a motocross track on their property. On appeal, the LaBerges argued the ordinance was unconstitutionally vague and that the Environmental Division’s conclusion that the LaBerges violated the ordinance is clearly erroneous. Finding no such error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re LaBerge NOV" on Justia Law

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Neighbor Mary Bourassa appealed the Environmental Division’s affirmance of a zoning permit application by Philip and Barbara Wagner and Christopher Guay, who wanted to build a single family residence and detached garage on two merged lots of a six-lot subdivision in Grand Isle. Bourassa, an owner of another lot in the subdivision, opposed development, chiefly on the ground that the proposed house would not be constructed within the “tree line” on the property, as required by the subdivision plat plan. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re Wagner & Guay Permit" on Justia Law

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This case came before the Vermont Supreme Court following the Environmental Division's decision on remand that a rock-crushing operation by North East Materials Group, LLC, (NEMG) was exempt from Act 250 as a preexisting development. The Environmental Division reached the same conclusion in its first decision, but the Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the court used the wrong legal standard in deciding that the rock-crushing operation did not constitute a cognizable physical change to the preexisting development and that one of the main factual findings in support of the decision was clearly erroneous. Appellants, a group on thirteen neighbors to the operation, appealed, arguing that the Environmental Division erred in applying the Supreme Court's instructions on remand. After review a second time, the Supreme Court concluded that, even assuming that crushing operations were part of the preexisting quarrying development, findings on the location and volume of the crushing operations were too limited to support a conclusion that the present operations did not constitute a cognizable change to the existing development. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re North East Materials Group LLC Act 250 JO #5-21" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on a decision of the environmental division of the superior court affirming several permits issued to appellee Costco Wholesale Corporation for the expansion of its existing retail store and the addition of an adjacent six-pump gasoline station in the Town of Colchester. Appellants R.L. Vallee, Inc. and Timberlake Associates LLP owned retail gasoline-service facilities located near the planned development. Appellant Vallee argued the trial court erred in: (1) determining that Costco’s proposed traffic-mitigation measures were sufficient for issuance of an Act 250 permit; (2) making findings concerning the impact of an underground stormwater outlet pipe, and with respect to which the court limited cross examination by Vallee’s counsel; (3) concluding that the project would not adversely affect a Class 2 wetland for issuance of an individual wetland permit; and (4) excluding testimony and a related exhibit prepared by appellant Vallee’s wetland consultant. Appellant Timberlake argued that the trial court erred in relying on a presumption with respect to the project’s impact on water pollution and waste disposal under Act 250. The Supreme Court found no error in the environmental division's order and affirmed it. View "In re Costco Stormwater Dishcharge Permit" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-landowner Donald Gould appealed three superior court rulings pertaining to the Town of Monkton’s new zoning regulations. Landowner alleged that the new zoning regulations under a "UPD" or "Unified Planning Document" interfered with his long-held development plans and reduced the potential economic return on his property in Monkton. On appeal of the superior court's rulings, plaintiff argued that the trial court erred by finding: (1) that it had no jurisdiction to hear a declaratory judgment action seeking to invalidate the new zoning regulations; (2) that landowner had no due process interest in the process by which zoning regulations were adopted; and (3) that landowner had no due process property interest in the application of the previous zoning regulations. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Gould v. Town of Monkton" on Justia Law