It's a BIG news week .
Appeal filed against health center in environmental court; ZBA adopts new ethics and procedure policy; plus, a super cute update on the twins born with the help of CVFRS
Before we get to the serious stuff—how cute is this?
Charlotte Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services Deputy Chief Rob Mullin had a play date this week with Rhodes Lampman, whom he helped to deliver at home in January along with AEMT Arron Barney. (Photo courtesy Willa Lampman, see the end of this post for more adorable shots of their visit.)
New ethics policy for ZBA
By Chea Waters Evans
After a tricky year of conflict-of-interest kerfuffles, the Zoning Board of Adjustment has adopted a new procedure and ethics policy. Adopted at the Aug. 11 meeting, the policy lays out rules and expectations for current and future ZBA members. In a press release, Town Planner Larry Lewack wrote, “These rules provide clear guidance for board members who have an interest in a project from tipping their hand on the scales to influence the board’s decision.”
ZBA Chair Lane Morrison told The Charlotte Bridge on Thursday that one main theme led discussion and decision-making surrounding the new policy: “Our intent is to be transparent and open, and I think this is a step forward for that.” He said that the conflict-of-interest guidelines the ZBA had been using were last approved in 2005 and that the new policy, which was shepherded by ZBA members Charles Russell and JD Herlihy, is compliant with the latest state regulations.
Morrison said there are three major changes that the board hopes will make the zoning process work better for Charlotters. The most notable change is to the ZBA’s operating procedure. Going forward, decisions and deliberations will be held publicly and openly, rather than during closed deliberative sessions. Previously, an applicant would make their case in front of the board, and then the ZBA, which is a quasi-judicial board, would deliberate privately and then announce their decision. Under the new procedure, applicants will be able to listen as the ZBA deliberates, though they will still not be allowed to speak or add new evidence or information. Lewack said, “The board retains the option to close meetings when necessary. But this will be the exception, not the rule, going forward.”
The second significant clarification in the new procedures lays out clearer guidelines regarding conflict of interest. Morrison said the ZBA consulted with the town attorney, who gave them advice to help make the conflict-of-interest rules “more specific and clear as we move forward.” He also said, “There’s more definition of what a conflict of interest is, so that’s good.”
As part of their concerted effort to identify and avoid conflict of interest, Morrison said that in the future, as each application is considered, he will directly address the board to make sure there are no issues. “It’s a self-recusal process,” Morrison said, “and if the board disagrees, then the board can take further, more serious steps.” The policy also allows for the applicant to request a particular member to recuse him- or herself, though it’s only a request and not a requirement.
The third major change defines who interested parties are, and in what order they speak during a hearing. First the applicant, then the ZBA, then the general public will speak in that order; a time limit of three minutes per question will be given to the public if there’s a great deal of interest and many people want to speak.
The new policy also defines the term “conflict of interest” partly as “a direct or indirect interest or involvement of a board member, their spouse, partner, household member, child, stepchild, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, aunt or uncle, brother or sister-in-law, cousin or other familial relation, business associate, employer or employee, in the outcome of a cause, proceeding, application or any other matter pending before the ZBA.”
Whether this will discount every person who lives in Charlotte remains to be seen but, for now, the rules and expectations are clearer.
Appeal filed against Charlotte Family Health Center decision
By Chea Waters Evans
A group of Charlotte residents has filed an appeal against the Planning Commission’s July 29 site plan final plan approval decision for a Charlotte Family Health Center on Ferry Road in the West Village. The group, whose designated representative is former Zoning Board of Adjustment and current Charlotte Conservation Commission member Ronda Moore, filed the appeal with the Vermont Superior Court Environmental Division through attorney Jon Anderson of Burlington law firm Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer.
The CFHC application has hit multiple hurdles over the past year; the PC’s approval was an indicator that the health center could move forward with construction that they previously hoped to complete by the end of 2021. (Click here here for past articles on the topic; there are several.)
Moore represents a group that consists mainly of Greenbush Road residents and other neighbors of the proposed health center site. Her fellow petitioners are Mark and Laurie Moser; King Milne; Alaina, John, Rhian, and Jalen Murphy; Thomas Bryce; Heather Murphy; Rene and Jeanne Kaczka-Valliere; Carla von Trapp Hunter; David Rothenbucher; Joanne Wallis; Jacinta Monniere; Gloria Slauterbeck; and Jason and Kelly Stockwell.
The Charlotte Family Health Center did not immediately reply to a request for a comment this afternoon.
CVFRS Deputy Fire Chief Rob Mullin has his hands full on a visit with the Lampman twins. He delivered Rhodes, on the right, on the bathroom floor of the family’s home this past winter. Tully, left, waited until after the ambulance got to the hospital to make his arrival.
Willa and Eric Lampman and their cutie-pie kids spent some time this week with Rob Mullin, who delivered one of the twins at home in January. Willa fondly refers to him as her “birth doula” and said that they’re still full of gratitude for CVFRS. “We’re just so grateful for the Fire and Rescue squad, and for Rob and Arron’s amazing efforts to deliver Rhodes. It was a pretty intense situation for me and my husband and they were so kind and supportive,” she said. (All photos courtesy Willa Lampman)