BELLOWS FALLS -- A former Rockingham Selectboard member and current Windham-3 state representative is appealing to the Vermont Environmental Court a town ruling that prohibits him from expanding the number of units in a residence he owns.
According the official minutes of the Rockingham Zoning Board of Adjustment & Planning Commission's meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 23, Matthew Trieber filed an appeal after the denial of a variance to allow for an increase in the number of apartments more than what is allowed in the residential-7 zoning district. The Rockingham Selectboard authorized Town Attorney Stephen Ankuda to represent the town's best interests in the case.
Ankuda told the Reformer Trieber's plan would expand a non-conforming use. He explained that many towns' zoning restrictions were created after the towns' first structures had been built and the law states any building that was established before the rules were in place can remain, but are listed as non-conforming uses. He said the these types of residences could not legally be built today. Additions can be made to existing non-conforming uses, but that makes them even more non-conforming, Ankuda said.
He also said he is not defending the zoning board's decision, but rather representing the town as a party involved in a zoning issue.
Trieber told the Reformer he disagrees with the board's decision and his appeal is nothing more than "the first step in the administrative procedure." He said he has no desire whatsoever to "get into a court fight with town of Rockingham."
The minutes of the Wednesday, Sept. 11, meeting state Trieber proposed adding three units to the two-unit residence he owns at 82 Atkinson St. According to the application, seven parking spaces would be required and located at the rear of the yard and alongside the driveway. It states the density requirements of 2,500 square feet of lot area per unit and 35 percent of lot area for green space are not met.
Robert DeRusha, who served as a representative of Trieber at the meeting, mentioned that the Rockingham Town Plan calls for a forum to look at the Atkinson Street area and this had not been done. He noted there are non-residential uses on the same street in an area of one mile and provided photographs of some of the area properties that are multi-family uses.
Even if developed into five units, the property would remain owner-occupied. The proposal would be consistent with the neighborhood and other similar uses, according to the minutes. DeRusha pointed out its green space is not defined and actually creates ambiguity. He also said the property does not, and will not, meet the criteria -- but neither do other lots in the neighborhood. Trieber, he said, simply wants to develop his property in compliance with the character of the area.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.