DRB Renders Decision on HowardCenter Permit

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Thursday January 10, 2013


On January 4, 2013—45 days after the Development Review Board (DRB) closed the public hearing on the South Burlington School Board’s appeal of the administrative officer’s decision to issue a zoning permit for “interior renovations to suite 101”for existing medical office use at 364 Dorset Street—an official decision was rendered.

The DRB voted on the appeal of South Burlington School District (#A)-12-02)  regarding the decision of the administrative officer to issue a zoning permit (#ZP-12-292) to the Howard Center Inc. The motion was made by Mark Behr and seconded by Bill Stuono. The motion failed by a vote of 2-4-0. Board members Art Klugo and Bill Stuono voted “yea.” Tim Barritt, Mark Behr, Bill Miller, and Roger Farley voted “nay.” Michael Sirotkin was not present and had recused himself from all participation in these proceedings.

A recurring argument made by the SB School District (SBSD) and other interested parties against the issuance of this zoning permit were concerns over the safety of students, given the proposed methadone clinic’s proximity to South Burlington schools. However, according to the DRB’s official statement, “The Administrative Officer is required to administer the regulations literally. In other words, he can only apply the regulations as written. Absent a specific provision of the SBLDRs [South Burlington Land Development Regulations] that authorizes the Administrative Officer to inquire into the safety of a proposed use or to consider safety-related factors, he has no authority to do so. No such provision exists in this case. Certainly, in determining whether to issue a zoning permit, the Administrative Officer is not required to generally evaluate potential safety concerns ‘given the proximity’ of the proposed use ‘to a vulnerable population’ or to assess, ‘the real potential for inappropriate interactions between patients and students,’ as SBSD asserts. Therefore, there is no regulatory basis for the DRB to take these safety factors into account in evaluating the application at issue. Based on the foregoing, the DRB concludes that SBSD’s appeal should be denied and Zoning Permit #ZP-12-292 should be granted because the applicant has met all of the applicable requirements under the SBLDRs.”

According to Superintendent David Young, “We are disappointed with the Board’s decision. It does not, in our view, serve the interests of our students. We will carefully consider our options, including an appeal.  Any decisions made by the District will be based on what is best for children and our community.” 

“I’m pleased that the DRB recognized the substance of our position” Bob Bick, Director of mental health and substance abuse services at the HowardCenter said.  “I anticipate we’ll resume our renovation plans which is what the zoning permit was for.”

No word yet on whether the SBSD will appeal this decision, but they have 30 days from January 4, 2013 to do so by filing with the Environmental Division of the Superior Court.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent