KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
SHAFTSBURY -- The State Environmental Court has ruled in favor of a proposed beagle club on East Road that had its zoning permit appealed by neighbors.
The Southern Vermont Beagle Club was granted a conditional use permit and site development plan by the Development Review Board on Aug. 31, 2011. According to the Environmental Court decision, issued Jan. 17 of this year by Environmental Court Judge Thomas G. Walsh, the decision was appealed that same day by Thomas and Jayne Outwater, who own property abutting the land where the beagle club is proposed to be built.
Walsh, in his decision, overturned the appeal and upheld the DRB’s decision to grant the permit application.
According to Walsh, the court conducted a site visit to the site of the proposed beagle club on Aug. 30, 2012, then held a two-day merits hearing. The Outwaters were represented by attorney Peter Holden, while attorneys James K. Malady III and Thomas Dailey represented the beagle club and the Estate of Robert Bucknell, which owns the property.
Walsh wrote that the Southern Vermont Beagle Club Inc. was officially formed as a non-profit in May 2011 and that it proposes to run its club at 1988 East Road on a patch of 62 acres with a possible 20 acres to be added through purchase. The club’s purpose is to train and condition dogs for rabbit hunting by allowing them to chase rabbits kept on the property. No dogs would be allowed overnight and the club would not operate past Vermont statutory hunting hours, which run from half an hour before dawn to half an hour after sunset.
Walsh wrote that rabbits tend to run in wide circles and beagles bark while chasing them. The club’s proposal does not call for new structures beyond a bridge over Furnace Brook, which splits the property, and a six-foot-high steel mesh fence that would encircle the property and divide it in two. This is to keep rabbits and dogs in and predators out. A 50-foot buffer zone between the fence and a wetland would be in effect. No more than twice a year, the club would hold field trials for the dogs which would involve the use of a starting gun no louder than a .22 caliber handgun but louder than a cap gun.
There would be no permanent sanitation facilities and the parking lot would be able to hold 20 cars maximum. The club does not plan on having more than 20 members or more than 24 dogs free on site at one time. Membership is by invitation only, according to the court’s findings.
Walsh wrote that the nearest proposed fencing would be 515 feet from the Outwaters’ home and 2,200 feet at the farthest. Flat land and the Furnace Brook are between them.
One of the elements of the Outwaters’ appeal was their claim they did not receive adequate notice of hearings the DRB held after its initial May 18, 2011 hearing. Walsh ruled that the DRB is required to publicly notice hearings but does not have to send special notice to interested parties if the hearings are continued.
Another element of the appeal concerned the club’s presence in a rural residential district. Walsh ruled that non-profits with approved site plans can be located in rural residential zones as per the town’s zoning bylaws.