Lifting Camps Puts Owner in High Water With Selectboard

Express Staff WriterDERBY– James Johnson attended the Derby Selectboard meeting Monday evening to express his indignation over learning that his properties on Lake Salem are in violation of a Town Bylaw.Johnson owns two camps on the lake. He had the camps raised a few inches after the flooding that occurred during the spring. The raising of the camps without a permit puts Johnson in violation of the Bylaw.Johnson is not the only one in violation. Most properties on the lake have been lifted due to the flooding. Some have attained permits, others have not, but all, according to Bob Kelley the town zoning administrator, need to do so. Johnson argued that he doesn't need a permit based on his interpretation of the Bylaw. Johnson noted his long service working as a local official. Johnson is the City Clerk of Newport.Johnson’s camps do not meet setback requirements and are considered non-conforming structures. Under the Bylaw Johnson would need to go through a conditional use hearing and pay a $75 fee to announce the hearing.Johnson said that the wording of the Bylaw is not clear.Article 3 Section 301.1 under non-conforming structures states that they “shall not be moved, enlarged, or extended.” The Bylaw also states that “the height of an existing compliant non-conforming structure may be extended provided that such an extension does not increase the footprint of the non-conformity and does not exceed the maximum building height for the district in which it is located.” However, any change in height is still required to go through a hearing process, which is noted in the Bylaw, Kelley explained after the meeting.The selectboard has already decided to waive permitting fees for lifting properties for those who were affected by flooding.Johnson questioned why he should have to pay the $75 fee. Kelley noted that if the selectboard had not decided to waive the permitting fees he would have been charged $260.The Planning Commission is considering amending the Bylaw to allow for permits to be issued administratively to those who wish to raise properties that are non-conforming. This change would apply to one and two family properties. Kelley has recommended this change to the planners, and they have decided it’s a good idea. The commission will review a report on the amendment, and then warn it for a hearing. Once it goes through planning, the selectboard will also hold a public hearing on the matter.Those who have sought permits to lift their properties, whether for conforming or non-conforming structures, have received them. Some hearings have already been held for those who needed a permit and own non-conforming properties.But about six properties remain in violation, Kelley noted.After Johnson’s comments, made Monday evening, the selectboard directed Kelley not to pursue the violation by Johnson, and wait to see if the amendment passes. If it does Johnson will still need a permit but would be able to attain the permit administratively rather than going through a hearing.