For more than a year, the Town of Shelburne and the Champlain Housing Trust have been engaged in a dispute over whether CHT was operating Harbor Place in accordance with Shelburne zoning bylaws. On Nov. 30, the Development Review Board ruled in favor of Harbor Place, allowing the motel to continue operations.
In 2013, CHT bought the site of the former Econo Lodge at 3164 Shelburne Road, and in Nov. 2014, began operating it as Harbor Place, providing rooms for those referred by the Vermont Department of Children and Families and other Chittenden County nonprofit organizations.
In 2014, after receiving complaints from residents living near Harbor Place and adjacent business owners, the Town launched an investigation and held several meetings with CHT representatives.
The following year, Shelburne Town Manager Joe Colangelo, acting in his capacity as Shelburne’s zoning administrator, issued a Notice of Violation to CHT, alleging that CHT was not operating a motel “because CHT does not offer rooms to the general public and because the services it provides are not typical of the services that a motel usually provides.”
CHT filed an appeal of the Notice of Violation with the DRB, and five public hearings on the appeal occurred between June and Oct. 2016, before the final decision was issued last week.
In its decision, the DRB found that “CHT’s decision to pursue a particular market, a subset of the general public, does not mean that Harbor Place fails or refuses to offer transient lodging accommodations to the general public.”
In regard to the additional services offered by CHT, the DRB found, “The definition of motel is not so restrictive as to prevent Harbor Place from helping its customers find permanent affordable housing or from allowing out-of-town individuals who undergo a medical procedure at UVM a brief period of respite near the hospital before they return home. The services Harbor Place provides are substantially similar to those that the Econo Lodge offered and that other motels in Shelburne currently offer.”
By a vote of six to zero, the DRB found that “there is insufficient evidence that one or more dwelling units have been created on the Property, that a multi-family dwelling… a medical office . . . a dental office…[or] a Business office of a Professional office use has been added to the Property.” On the issues of whether there was insufficient evidence that “emergency housing, temporary housing, or transitional housing uses differ from ‘transient lodging accommodation’” and whether “other uses or activities are beyond the scope of the allowed motel use,” the vote was four to two.
The DRB’s decision may be appealed by filing with the Environmental Division of the Superior Court within 30 days.