WOODFORD -- The Woodford Select Board approved a bylaw during their bi-weekly meeting on Wednesday that will allow the town's zoning administrator to levy fines against residents who do not conform to zoning bylaws.
"Basically, its my understanding that there is no penalty for improper building in the town," said Selectman Ryan Thurber. Thurber said that the zoning administrator had had people tell him, "There's nothing that you can do," when he informed them of a violation.
The new ordinance will give residents seven days to respond to a written warning from the zoning administrator informing them of a non-conformation. After that point the zoning administrator will be able to fine them $50 a day, or the state-recommended fine (which cannot exceed $200 per day), until the property is brought into conformity.
"This has only come to light since a few residents and non-residents made some bad decisions and went against the grain" said Thurber.
The motion passed unanimously.
There was some discussion regarding allowing the zoning administrator to keep a percentage of the fines levied as an incentive for actively pursuing violators. However, several board members and members of the audience expressed misgivings that a zoning administrator may go out of his way to fine individuals to effectively increase his salary. The board did not come to a conclusion on the issue, and agreed to table it for now, in the interest of time.
The board also discussed the town's contract with the Bennington County Sheriff's Department.
Like many other local towns, Woodford hires deputies at around $25 per hour to patrol the town. The town also receives a percentage of any tickets written in Woodford, except on Route 9. Treasurer Jim Horrigan said he received far less than he was expecting in ticket revenues, and attempted to contact the sheriff's office to determine how many tickets were written in Woodford.
Horrigan was told that to receive that information would be another $30 charge. Horrigan recommended holding off on paying the town's two outstanding bills from the sheriff's department until the department provides accountability. Thurber suggested that the select board and Horrigan meet with Sheriff Chad Schmidt to discuss the issue. Selectmen Steve Wright and Mike Charette agreed with Horrigan, and the board approved withholding from paying the bills until the sheriff's department renegotiates the contract with the town to include reports on tickets written.
Other topics that were covered at the meeting included a report from Stephen C. Love, of Love, Cody and Company CPAs, the auditing firm that is currently performing an audit of the town's finances. Horrigan and several members of the board expressed frustration at how long the audit was taking -- the initial deadline having passed over one year ago. Love acknowledged that there have been delays on both sides, but he hopes to have a final report in the board's hands by the end of the week.
President Mark Tilly and Trailmaster Scott Daniels of the Woodford SnoBusters snowmobiling club also spoke at the meeting, seeking permission and financial help with a project that would make improvements to Old Stage Coach Trail. The club is looking at making improvements to a 200-foot section of the trail where water has significantly washed out part of the trail. The club plans to install water bars to direct water flow over the road, where it used to flow, and bring in crushed rock to fill in space between boulders. The select board approved $700 to help pay for materials for the trail, which is under town jurisdiction.
Derek Carson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB.