Much ado about a lot

IMG_7258Thompson’s Point land use dispute rankles neighbors, stymies property owner and flummoxes Selectboard

By Geeda Searfoorce | The Charlotte News

On July 12, the dilapidated structure at 1012 Flat Rock Road on Thompson’s Point sat decaying while the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) denied its owner’s application to demolish and reconstruct it. Originally an outbuilding for the adjacent property, the tumbledown structure sits on lot 128, which was erroneously, illegally subdivided from lot 127 by the Selectboard two years ago.

Paul Arthaud, the owner of the two lots, had completed renovations on the main structure, on lot 127, in 2001 and lived there for years. In 2014 he asked the town to terminate his lease and create two new leases—one for lot 127 and one for lot 128. Arthaud then sold lot 127 to Nina Cucchiari and Norman Ernsting, keeping lot 128 and its dilapidated structure, which rankled neighbors enough that in 2015 they submitted a petition to the ZBA to demolish it.

In early 2016 Carrie and Peter Fenn signed a purchase agreement for lot 128 with the Thompson's Pt. Mapintention of rebuilding the structure in the same spot, slightly larger, and turn it into a camp. They applied for a zoning permit for the demolition and subsequent rebuilding. The ZBA denied their request, made on behalf of Arthaud, in July. The decision was based on the proposed new structure’s noncompliance with land use regulations.

Town attorney David Rugh, of the firm Stitzel, Page and Fletcher, agrees that lot 128 is not developable and should not be on its own lease. Since the 1930s, the lots were included in one leasehold. The zoning map of Thompson’s Point, drawn up in the 1930s, seems to show the two lots as separate.

But in town documentation they have always been joined. Page 16 of the Charlotte Land Use Regulations states, “For the purposes of these regulations, leaseholds shall be considered lots. No further subdivision of leaseholds, other than boundary adjustments that do not result in the creation of additional leaseholds, is allowed.”

It’s clear that the lots should not have been divided into two leases. What’s less clear is how to proceed from here. On Thompson’s Point, residents own their houses but lease from the town the land on which the houses sit. The disposal of lot 128, which is currently leasing at $4,000 per year, will have to be studied by town attorneys and requires further review from the Selectboard. Should it become town land, be further divided between 127 and 129 or revert back into a consolidated Lot 127?

At the Selectboard meeting on August 22, the Fenns appeared to request a reimbursement for the $513.50 ZBA fee. Arthaud is requesting reimbursement for the amount of the proposed purchase price offered by the Fenns. Both requests were denied, pending further study of the matter, which is already underway and will lead to a determination in 30 to 60 days, according to Selectboard Chair Lane Morrison.

Meanwhile, the dilapidated structure remains, much to the chagrin of abutting property owners Cucchiari and Ernsting, and Valerie and J.C. Biebuyck, who live on lot 129. Leases on Thompson’s Point require that leaseholders maintain their property in good condition, and neighbors are united in their assessment of lot 128’s disheveled state. The ultimate agreement about who is responsible for its disposal as yet remains unclear, but will undoubtedly highlight the need for a renewed respect for Land Use Regulations.