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Letter: Parking Garage Opponents Remain Active

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I am one of the still-active 17 citizens who oppose the City of Montpelier’s proposed parking garage behind Christ Church and Capitol Plaza. We appealed the City’s Development Review Board (DRB) approval as well as that of Vermont’s District 5 Environmental Commission.

Contrary to Bill Fraser’s comment in the December 4 issue of The Bridge suggesting just two appellants remain, the appeal continues to be a local, grassroots effort with widespread support.

Judge Thomas Walsh recently ruled, on a motion made by the City, that only appellants suffering direct harm—not any group of 10 or more concerned voters and/or landowners—may appeal a zoning decision. Two of our group met this unexpected test, so our whole group is able to continue its appeal through them.

Judge Walsh’s decision is a significant departure from the longstanding interpretation of 24 V.S.A. Section 4465, which defines who may appeal a decision or act of a municipal administrative officer.

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While it is irrelevant for our case to appeal Judge Walsh’s decision on standing, we are deeply concerned about the precedent his decision sets. All Vermont citizens should be aware that this new interpretation of an important right may limit future community input beyond appearing at DRB hearings.

As I understand it, our only recourse is to work with our legislators to strengthen the statute. Feel free to contact me at 223-1806 if you would like more information about this issue.

The City and its attorneys have worked very hard to whittle down our appellant group. We have been “dissed” in nearly every update published by Bill Fraser. A vocal subset of merchants have been negative toward us and even sent individual letters to each of us pressuring us to drop the appeal. Besides asking for the judgment noted above, the City’s attorneys challenged one appellant’s residency even though she is a registered voter. These actions, which at times feel like harassment, have only strengthened our resolve.

It’s worth noting that the City’s negative actions have been balanced by positive outreaches of friends and colleagues. Thank you to all the community members who have supported our efforts towards transparency and accountability.

Sandra Vitzthum

Montpelier