Champlain Housing Trust challenges Colangelo on Harbor Place

Attorney Brian Dunkiel, acting on behalf of Champlain Housing Trust, rebutted allegations of zoning regulations violations by Harbor Place.

Shelburne Town Manager Joe Colangelo, acting in his capacity as zoning administrator, issued a letter on Sept. 24 to Michael Monte, the Chief Operating and Financial Officer of the Champlain Housing Trust asking for voluntary compliance for a list of seven violations.

In a letter dated Oct. 14, Dunkiel countered Colangelo’s list of violations by writing that he had searched the Shelburne Zoning Bylaws and found no evidence that the violations were valid, specifically regarding short-term residential services, emergency housing, temporary housing and transitional housing.

Dunkiel went on to reference “the ongoing review by the Shelburne Planning Commission of the definition of hotel/motel,” but noted that those changes had not yet been adopted.

“Champlain Housing Trust will not be coerced through the threat of enforcement into discontinuing its lawful and proper use of the property as a motel,” Dunkiel said. “Many of Champlain Housing Trust’s guests at Harbor Place are disabled, have children and/or receive public assistance. As such, how you and the town use regulatory and enforcement authority has the potential to adversely impact vulnerable individuals and families and interfere with the lodging afforded to them at this property.”

Colangelo responded to Dunkiel’s Oct. 14 letter on Oct. 19 by issuing a formal Notice of Violation of the Shelburne Zoning Bylaws to Champlain Housing Trust. This letter stated, “Based on information available to the town, you have commenced land development on the 3164 Shelburne Road property without first obtaining a zoning permit from the town as required by the Town of Shelburne Zoning Bylaws, specifically, you changed the permitted use of the above-described property (hotel/motel) without obtaining a zoning permit. You also added new uses to the above-described property without obtaining a zoning permit.”

The letter went on to specify nine activities being conducted without a zoning permit:

• Creation of one or more dwelling units

• Addition of a short-term residential services use

• Addition of an emergency housing use

• Addition of a temporary housing use

• Addition of a transitional housing use

• Creation of a multi-family dwelling

• Addition of a medical or dental office use

• Addition of a Business or Professional office use

• Commencing other uses or activities on the property that are beyond the scope of the existing hotel/motel use

Champlain Housing Trust was put on notice that they have seven days from the date of the formal letter to discontinue the violations and have the legal right to appeal the Notice of Violation by filing a written Notice of Appeal within 15 days of the date of the letter.

“Shelburne’s zoning bylaws have been developed and refined over the years through the sweat equity of civic-minded volunteers,” Colangelo said. “My job as zoning enforcement officer is to simply apply the rules as written.”

Champlain Housing Trust Director of Community Relations Chris Donnelly said, “We will appeal, and believe that we are not in violation with the existing zoning bylaws.”

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