April 22, 2018

Sugaring operation sees appeal cut down

DRB upholds decision on former chair’s tree cutting

Aug. 25, 2011

By Adam White

Observer Staff

A Richmond resident whose maple sugaring operation stretches across the Williston border warned the town’s Development Review Board at its Aug. 23 meeting about excessive tree-cutting being conducted in the area.

Gary Grzywna of 264 Sherwood Forest Rd. holds an easement to tap maple trees on the property of Kevin McDermott, but alleged at the meeting that a longstanding feud between the two men has culminated in McDermott clearing a large number of healthy trees under the guise of cleaning up damage from the windstorm of Dec. 1, 2010.

“Our concern in this case is that Mr. McDermott is not just cleaning up his property,” said Mark Hall, an attorney representing Grzywna. “He’s using windfall from the storm to cut trees out of the maple sugaring easement.”

Grzywna said that he has counted upward of 25 truckloads of trees being taken off the property, and that he had observed at least one instance of a standing, healthy tree being cut down. He said that he has consulted with University of Vermont Extension maple specialist George Cook, and commissioned an aerial photographer to document the extent of the tree clearing on the property.

Grzywna acknowledged that wind damage was indeed severe on the property, and had cut the number of sugar maples he could tap there roughly in half. He also said that he had made his own efforts to clean up some felled trees within the easement.

“I already took a 50-percent hit from that storm,” he said. “It is going to take four or five years to clean this mess up properly.”

Grzywna was seeking an appeal of a decision by zoning administrator Ken Belliveau that McDermott was not required to obtain an administrative permit for the work on his property. Belliveau said that he visited the site earlier this summer, and witnessed damage that he said was consistent with other wind-damaged areas in town.

“From the view that I had, [the] amount of tree damage on his property was nothing short of gigantic,” Belliveau said. “There were trees down all over the place.”

Belliveau said that he had been advised by the town’s land-use attorney, Paul Gillies, that his decision on the matter was defensible, and that no further action was required of his department on the issue. Belliveau told the Board that in his opinion, the case belonged in another arena.

“Where truth lies between these two men, I have no idea,” Belliveau said. “But in my opinion, this is not a zoning action – this is a matter of land and money.”

Board chairman Scott Rieley asked Belliveau if any other permits had been granted for cleaning up trees felled by the windstorm, and Belliveau said he could think of only one. Board member Michael Alvanos raised the question of whether Grzywna’s easement equates to actual legal ownership of the trees; Hall said it does not.

The DRB voted unanimously to deny Grzywna’s appeal and uphold Belliveau’s decision not to require McDermott – who is a former chair of the Williston DRB, and served alongside the majority of the current members – to obtain a permit for tree clearing on his property.

McDermott was not present at the meeting, and did not immediately return a call for comment the following day.

Green light for Lot 30 Project

In other action at the meeting, the DRB granted Discretionary Permit approval to the Lot 30 Project, which involves several buildings encompassing approximately 29,000 square feet of retail space immediately to the north of the existing Ponderosa restaurant. The project – proposed by Taft Corners Associates – also entails the dedication of land, construction of two new public streets and some minor boundary line adjustments.

The Board retained review of the final plans for the project, a step that Belliveau said is not uncommon for developments of that size and complexity.

The DRB’s next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 6.

 

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