Zoning issue on New Haven warning

NEW HAVEN — A proposal on the New Haven town meeting warning asks residents to back a special meeting or vote to decide whether to rezone a parcel of privately-owned land in town. The landowner says he has no immediate plans to develop the land, but some residents are opposed to rezoning the parcel.
Residents will weigh in on the article by Australian ballot on Town Meeting Day, March 3.
The land in question, a 20-acre parcel on the southwest corner of Belden Falls Road and Route 7, is owned by Steve Dupoise Sr.
He wants to see the zoning for the parcel changed from agricultural/rural residential to highway commercial. Dupoise told the Independent Wednesday that he said has no plans to commercially develop the land and doesn’t foresee any in the near future, but wants to have the option to do so should the opportunity arise.
“I can honestly tell you that we have nothing in the pipeline; there’s nothing going on there,” Dupoise said.
The land is currently farmed, but Dupoise said in contrast with much of the land in Addison County, the soil there is not certified as prime by the USDA. That, coupled with the fact that the plot floods easily, makes it poor farmland, Dupoise said.
Dupoise said when he and his wife purchased the land 15 years ago he had a verbal commitment from the town planning commission to change the zoning of the land to commercial, but that still has not happened.
The planning commission last July did unanimously support the zoning change and forwarded the request to the selectboard. The board voted 3-1, with one abstention, in favor of the change.
A town resident petitioned for the request to be taken up by the town as a whole, a move that placed article on the town meeting warning. Similar town meeting proposals to change the parcel’s zoning were rejected in 2008 and 2010, and some residents in town have expressed opposition this time around.
The Independent last week published a letter authored by Jono Chapin, Susan Smiley, Tammy Newark and Douglas Tolles in which they urged their neighbors to vote against the article.
The group wrote that when landowners buy a parcel zoned for farm or housing use, they should not expect municipalities to be open to allowing the land to be used for commercial development. They said rezoning land on a case-by-case basis, inconsistent with surrounding land, would be bad town planning.
“As the southern gateway to New Haven, a parcel the size of 20 acres could be developed many ways, including a large shopping/office plaza or gas station/convenience store complex,” wrote Chapin et al.
The group added that that type of development would cause a traffic headache and damage the town’s scenic vistas.
Dupoise noted that New Haven did not include his parcel on Belden Falls Road as part of the town’s scenic viewshed, and also noted that the current town plan, adopted in 2011, includes a “Business Planning Area” that encompasses the parcel. He said that since his and adjacent parcels are not hooked up to any municipal services, commercial development would undergo a long regulatory process.
“New Haven has no town water or sewer, so any kind of development would have to have all kinds of regulations, even to just build a house there,” he said.
Dupoise said that residents’ suggestions that he plans to use the land for a gas station or convenience store are not based in fact, and give townspeople an incorrect representation of his stance.
“These people are inciting other people,” Dupoise said.
Dupoise said he has owned land in both New Haven and Middlebury for many years, and has made responsible use of the parcels.
“I don’t think anyone would say I haven’t been a good steward of the land,” he said.
Dupoise is also running for the selectboard this year, but stressed that his run is not motivated by this issue. He said that he would recuse himself it came up in his duties as a selectman.
Zach Despart may be reached at [email protected].

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