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Zoning Board of Appeals — Meeting Minutes — August 6, 2009

A duly posted meeting of the Shelburne Zoning Board of Appeals was held at the Selectmen's Meeting Room at Town Hall, 51 Bridge Street, Shelburne, on August 6, 2009.

Members Present: Joseph Palmeri, John Pollard, Theodore Merrill, Catherine Smith, William Sweeney, Lowell Laporte
Clerk: Faye Whitney
Members Absent: John Taylor
Others present: Harry Samoriski, Susan Samoriski, Philip Block, Nancy Dole, David Crutcher, William Bridges, Laura Sandvik, Kate lapping, Lallie Pratt, Jonathan Crowley, Michael Beausoleil, James Graves, Barry Lapping

Chairman Joe Palmeri called the meeting to order at 7:15 p.m. Mr. Palmeri then rescused himself, citing a possible conflict of interest, from the upcoming hearing regarding the Vipassana Meditation Center and left the table. The meeting was then suspended for the purpose of the hearing.

At 8:05 p.m. the meeting resumed and Mr. Palmeri rejoined the group.

Mr. Palmeri noted that the October meeting would be held on the second Thursday of the month, Oct. 8, instead of the first Thursday, due to a scheduling conflict in Memorial Hall.

Mr. Palmeri said he and Mr. Taylor were still working on bonds for SBA.

The Board then decided to enter into discussion regarding the hearing on the Vipassana Meditation Center. Mr. Palmeri again recused himself and left the table.

Mr. Laporte said that since an abutter had raised the question regarding view, should the Board have a site visit? Mr. Merrill said no one had objected to the proposed increase in height of the pagoda structure and thought the Board was obligated to accept it since a taller structure had already been allowed in the village. Mr. Sweeney asked if the increased height would affect the view of abutters or others.

Mr. Pollard said he thought the Dover Amendment (which states that zoning can not be used to restrict the religious use of a property) would take precedent over local bylaws. He asked for copies of decisions reached between Belmont and the Church of Latter Day Saints and Buckland and the Dzog Chen Community. Mr. Merrill said he understood that regulatory agencies should not prevent religious organizations from making changes unless it is really necessary. Mr. Sweeney said there could be legitimate reasons so these cases should be heard.

Ms. Smith questioned whether there would be lights directed on the pagoda but realized that precedent had been set since there are already lights on the Congregational Church steeple. Mr. Pollard said lighting could be made a condition of the special permit.

Mr. Sweeney and Mr. Laporte said the Meditation Center has been a real plus for the town. Mr. Sweeney suggested that the discussion be continued until the next Board meeting.

Mr. Palmeri returned to the table.

Conflict of interest issues were discussed. Mr. Palmeri had spoken with the State Ethics Commission. He was told that if a conflict exists the Board member could make a disclosure of the conflict. Then the appointing party, in this case the Board of Selectmen, can decide if a Board member should be recused. Mr. Palmeri said he did not know if the Selectmen had made any decision regarding his possible conflict of interest with the meditation center. However, the Ethics Commission said that unless the appointing body says a member cannot hear an application, it is permissible as long as the necessary paperwork is filed with the appointing body and the member makes a public disclosure of the possible conflict.

Mr. Sweeney moved that the minutes of the July meeting be approved. This was seconded by Mr. Pollard.

Voting in favor: William Sweeney, Joe Palmeri, John Pollard, Ted Merrill, Lowell Laporte
Opposed: None
Abstaining: Catherine Smith

Herb Berquist and Alain Peteroy came before the Board for a preliminary meeting on the possible need for a variance to expand the size of their home. The house is located on small (.6 acre) non-conforming lot. The proposed addition would be within the setback limits, so the Board said a variance should not be needed.

At 9:02 p.m. Ms. Smith moved that the meeting be adjourned. This was seconded by Mr. Sweeney. The vote in favor was unanimous.

Respectfully submitted,

Faye Whitney, Clerk