Phoenix (August 30, 2010) — A group of neighbors in Vermont recently learned the hard way about when to voice opposition to a local zoning case, per a Vermont Supreme Court decision.
The Town of Barton Zoning Board of Adjustment’s (ZBA) issued a Conditional Use Permit to Verizon Wireless to build an antenna in the form of an artificial tree. Neighbors to the proposed antenna called the zoning administrator to express their opposition after learning of the ZBA’s decision and submitted a letter to the ZBA the same day. The neighbors then filed an appeal to the Environmental Court of Vermont challenging the ZBA’s decision alleging that neither the Town nor Verizon provided adequate notice prior to the public hearing, and that local and state law required the new antenna to be co-located on an existing tower.
The Environmental Court dismissed the case because the neighbors failed to satisfy the requirements for standing as they did not participate in the proceedings until after the public hearing and decision had taken place, nor did they file a timely request for party status, the burden of which was on the neighbors.
Neighbors then appealed to the Supreme Court of Vermont claiming they were denied a meaningful opportunity to participate in the proceedings. The Supreme Court of Vermont affirmed the Environmental Court’s decision that the neighbors’ acts were insufficient because they did not occur until after the ZBA decision. Statutory language supported that the activity must take place while the municipal decision-making process was still ongoing. The Court further found that it did not have discretion to waive statutory requirements to allow standing for neighbors.
Click here to access the opinion.
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