By Mark Kobzik
After an attempted murder last Friday at Harbor Place, Shelburne Town Manager Joe Colangelo is pressuring Champlain Housing Trust for a meeting to discuss ongoing issues at the motel.
On Tuesday Colangelo shared his frustration with the news media after he said the housing nonprofit brushed him off when he contacted them asking for an in-person meeting.
The motel provides temporary lodging for people with no other place to turn, including the homeless and people with mental health issues. A former Econo Lodge on Shelburne Road, Harbor Place is a site of frequent calls to Shelburne Police and Rescue.
Town officials at Tuesday’s Shelburne selectboard meeting discussed how last week’s incident with a machete-wielding man who seriously injured a visitor to the complex brought the situation to a more serious and dangerous level.
Colangelo expressed his frustration with attempts to communicate with Harbor Place management. “I’ve been trying to set up a meeting with (Champlain Housing Trust) for over six months now without success,” Colangelo said.
“I get calls all the time from people in the neighborhood,” he added, but he’s unable to tell residents that the town is helping resolve problems. “I’m not getting a face-to-face meeting.”
Chris Donnelly, spokesman for Champlain Housing Trust, told the Shelburne News Wednesday housing officials felt Colangelo didn’t give his office time to reply on Tuesday before Colangelo turned to news reporters. “We’re not stonewalling him,” Donnely said. “We will get back to him.”
It’s unclear when any conversation will happen. Selectboard Chair Gary von Stange suggested Tuesday night that Colangelo invite Champlain Housing representatives to an upcoming board meeting to discuss Harbor Place.
Colangelo made a point to note to selectboard members that there is a good working relationship between Shelburne Police and Rescue and the Harbor Place on-site staff.
Disagreements between the town manager and officials at the housing organization go back to October 2015 when the town put the operator on notice for an alleged permit violation. The Shelburne Development Review Board ruled in favor of Harbor Place, saying it had the proper permits.
In recent months, Colangelo said he was unsuccessful in trying to discuss public safety issues with Harbor Place management. In attempting to set up a meeting with Champlain Housing Trust officials, he said he discovered an apparent misunderstanding about litigation.
Colangelo said he received word from Dawn Francis, Colchester town manager and CHT Board Member, that housing officials had been advised not to speak with Colangelo due to ongoing litigation. Donnelly said he did not know where that concern came from.
Colangelo said that no such litigation existed at the time nor does it now. He told the selectboard that the past permitting dispute was settled. “I’m over it,” he said. “I certainly hope CHT is over it.”