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Town approves partial settlement with Churchview Estates developer

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff

The Selectboard on Monday approved a partial settlement with the developer of Churchview Estates after years of unaddressed zoning violations and neighborhood complaints.
The settlement would allow Churchview Estates LLC to sell two completed units while requiring the developer to set aside money from the sale to complete road paving, sidewalks and landscaping.
Due to zoning violations, the town had denied applications for the permits required for developer Rene Thibault to complete several units. Two units are finished, but need a final town inspection before they can be sold. Two other duplex units are in various stages of construction.
Last year, Planning and Zoning Director Ken Belliveau issued notices of zoning violations, the most serious of which was that there was no financial security to ensure the completion of road and landscaping work, a requirement.
“The notices of zoning violation cited the appellant for multiple violations of the conditions of approval for the development of this site including failure to maintain an active suitable letter of credit or escrow agreement guaranteeing the completion of all of the required public and private improvements (the original had expired), and the construction of two duplex buildings without the issuance of valid administrative permits,” Belliveau wrote in a memo to the Selectboard.
In December, the DRB upheld Belliveau’s decision to issue the violations. Thibault is appealing the DRB’s decision before the Vermont Superior Court.
The violations were not the first on the property. The developer had already received a notice of zoning violation in July 2013 for “improper storage of construction materials and equipment,” according to the memo.
While the settlement would allow the two finished units to be sold, it does not change the permit status of the unfinished duplexes, and the litigation will likely continue.
During a May 4 Selectboard meeting, Churchview Estates homeowners shared a lengthy list of complaints about their experiences with the developer.
Some of them were neighborhood concerns—including the lack of homeowner association meetings or homeowners on the association board, cracked sidewalks and incomplete and substandard landscaping. Others reiterated town zoning issues—lack of financial security and improper storage of construction equipment.
While homeowners said they generally agreed with the settlement as a way to move forward, they also pushed for stronger terms that address concerns of the residents and require work to be completed.
On May 18, the Selectboard authorized the town manager to sign an agreement with Thibault that would require $50,000 be put in an escrow account to complete the infrastructure of the development. It also required Thibault to remove and properly dispose of construction debris.