Depending on the size and scope of a project, applicants should allow ample time for the zoning application process before beginning construction. The first step in the process begins with a completed zoning permit application submitted to the Zoning Administrator or Town Office.
Once this completed application is received the Zoning administrator (ZA) has 30 days to issue a decision, otherwise, the permit is “deemed issued” on the 31st day. Applications that are incomplete in any way will delay the start of this 30-day clock. Consequently, this is an excellent reason to have some initial contact with the ZA, in order that; he may help prevent any unnecessary delays to the project by providing guidance and answers for the applicant.
Issuing a decision or “acting” on an application may include any of the following:
Zoning permits that approved by the ZA do NOT take effect until after a 15-day appeal period has passed. Any decision by the ZA is subject to appeal by the applicant or other “interested persons”. This appeal must be made in writing to the DRB within 15 days of the decision by the ZA. The Board will then schedule a hearing in accordance with state statute, which must be warned and held within 60 days of the date the appeal notice was properly filed.
Once the hearing is held and the matter properly adjourned, the Board will have 45 days to issue a written decision. This decision is mailed to the applicant and any interested persons, as well as, being filed with the Municipality as part of the public record. If the decision was favorable to the applicant, the ZA will issue a Zoning Permit (with any conditions imposed by the DRB in the decision) and the applicant may begin the project after 30 days. Ordinarily the wait period would be 15 days for any issued Zoning Permit but in this particular instance it increases to 30 days. The reason being any appeals of the decision by the DRB can be made to the Vermont Environmental Court with 30 days of the decision. Once this 30 day time period expires without appeal the project may begin.
This is just a brief overview of the legal time periods allowed in the Zoning Permit process. It must be said that in most instances the decisions involved are made sooner than the state mandated time limits. But these time limits are put in place to protect the applicant from unnecessary delays, as well as, give the municipal workers (many of whom are volunteers) ample time to make important decisions. In addition to local bylaw requirements, applicants may need state approval on certain aspects of their project. The Zoning Administrator will be able to assist applicants and provide information about contacting the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources’ regional permit specialist in order to assure timely action on any required state permits. Failure to obtain the necessary State Permits can cause undue delays to any local project, despite having met all local zoning requirements.