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Proposed home causes stir on Lake Iroquois

Jan. 13, 2011

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

A proposal for the construction of a five-bedroom home on the shores of Lake Iroquois generated a large turnout at Tuesday night’s Development Review Board meeting. The housing application, which Williston Planning Department staff admits is a complicated one, could set a precedent for future lakeside development.

Burlington attorney Mark Hall spoke on behalf of his client, applicant Jerry Davis, who was on a previously scheduled vacation. Most of the land, which Davis does not yet own, is situated between Lake Iroquois and privately-owned Beebe Lane. Hall said the prime lakeside property is “unusable” under current land regulations, arguing that lake setback regulations, along with density restrictions in the area, essentially eliminate any buildable land on the parcels.

Hall requested that the board grant a variance from a regulation that all homes constructed along the lake must be built at least 150 feet from the water’s edge. Davis is asking for his home to be built 75 feet from the water. Hall cited a number of lakeside camps built much closer to the lake than the current setback allows. Planning Director Ken Belliveau told the board that many of those camps were built before the town implemented any sort of zoning for the lake area.

The property consists of three lots under the same ownership; the two lakeside lots rest on the west side of Beebe Lane, while the third lot sits on the east side of the road. Davis wants the board to consider the two lakeside lots as one parcel. He believes that combining the lots would provide greater flexibility as to where a home can be built and how large it can be.

Hall said when Williston officials created the agricultural zoning district for the southern part of town, they didn’t take into account the unique nature of Lake Iroquois. Conditions limiting the number of homes that can be built in certain areas cause issues for anyone considering a home on the lake.

“All the lots there are nonconforming,” Hall said. “That is a mistake.”

Under Williston’s growth management system, which governs the number of residences that can be built each year, the entire three-lot parcel would be entitled to have a home constructed upon it, Belliveau told the Observer. The property is exempt from the growth management process, having had permission to build before the process took effect. But Belliveau explained that if the Development Review Board approves Davis’ request to combine two lots, the board may classify the land as a new property and require the home to go through growth management allocation.

Many of the homes along Lake Iroquois’s western shore are seasonal camps, whose owners appeared at Tuesday’s meeting. Roger Crouse, president of the Lake Iroquois Association, said he opposes the construction of a home so close to the lake. The Lake Iroquois Association is a nonprofit organization that works to improve the lake’s surrounding environment and keep invasive species out of the water.

“The ‘everyone else is closer’ argument is not a valid argument for the lake,” Crouse said.

The Development Review Board did not make a ruling on Tuesday night. Instead, it decided to wait to hear from the town’s lawyer, Paul Gilles, about similar land rulings in other parts of the state. Hall approved of the board’s assessment, stating he would prefer not to bring the issue to litigation.

The board is scheduled to revisit the issue on Feb. 8.