KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
ARLINGTON -- Cleanup work is underway at Dietrichs Trailer Park, an abandoned mobile home park off Route 7A.
Mobile homes demolished
Page Dietrich, brother of the park's owner, Kelly Dietrich, said Friday an excavator would be at the park to knock down the abandoned, dilapidated mobile homes and load them into large trash containers. As of Tuesday, that appeared to have been done. Dietrich said he was also cutting some brush and burning it under a permit from the town.
The park was bought at a tax sale this year by the town. Kelly Dietrich has one year to redeem the property, however, and has control of it in the meantime.
According to a letter sent to the town Planning Commission by Dietrich, he hopes to open a cooking school for youth on the site.
"My plans for the cooking school are to specifically offer cooking classes in a week-long session to kids," Dietrich wrote.
His letter is primarily a request for the commission to change the zoning for the park. "I would like to begin by requesting the town consider changing the zoning of the property so that I could have some more flexibility with the cooking school. After review of the zoning bylaw, section 6.6 is clear that this property is zoned rural district. In section 6.6 #2 Permitted uses, specifically D-home occupation and H-rooming House or Tourist homes."
The letter was discussed briefly by the commission at a meeting Thursday. Commissioners indicated they would consider the matter further should Dietrich submit a building application.
Dietrich said in an interview that he sent the letter to the commission simply to inform them of his intentions and would ask more formally later. He said ideally he would like the property rezoned for commercial use, that way he could build a house and run a cooking school out of it with a "dormitory" on the premises.
Barring that he would ask for some variances. Currently, the zoning laws allow a small sign to be placed on the property, and he can build a guest house for 10 people. He would like a larger sign and room for more students.
Dietrich said that for the past six years he has run a cooking school in Highgate, but decided the lease he was paying was too expensive and that the trailer park which he owns would be a more cost-effective site. He said his business was also affected by publicity surrounding animal cruelty charges filed against him late last year.
WCAX-TV reported last year that Dietrich was charged after two emaciated horses were seized from his property in Highgate. According to the Franklin County State's Attorney's Office, the charges were dismissed.
Dietrich said he had adopted two horses that were slated for a slaughterhouse and they were not in good condition when he got them. He said the state took an interest in the matter, and while he was away one of the horses bullied the other, keeping it from getting adequate food. At that point both animals were seized, he said.
Dietrich said the trailer park siite was owned by his father in the 1960s. He grew up there and graduated from Arlington Memorial High School, then went to the Culinary Institute of America in New York. He said he has been in the cooking industry ever since, owning his own restaurant in Burlington for a time, doing some teaching, and culinary tours in South America.
He said he has been out of Arlington for some 30 years and didn't realize how run down the park had become. "I was really disappointed with the condition of it," he said.
Dietrich said the park has been abandoned for years. The few standing homes had been stripped of valuable metal and a maintenance shed on the property had been broken into. He said if his cooking school plans don't come to fruition he may consider a small market, but that would also require some zoning alterations.