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Town extends building ban for another year

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/27/2022 9:06:27 PM
Modified: 9/27/2022 9:06:28 PM

FAIRLEE — Most construction around Lake Morey will remain at a standstill after the town’s Selectboard voted on Monday night to extend a building moratorium, initially set to expire yesterday, an additional year.

The moratorium prevents residents from pursuing building projects that would require obtaining a conditional use permit. It was initially put in place last fall to halt construction so that the state could better understand the causes behind cyanobacteria blooms in Lake Morey.

As more seasonal camps are transformed into year-round homes, intensified use is straining the capacity of many septic systems along the shoreline, which could be contributing to the rising nutrient levels detected in recent years that feed cyanbobacteria — an algae-like toxin that gathers at the surface of the lake.

A survey sent out this past spring to property owners along the lake indicated that many have older septic systems and don’t know how to assess the quality of those systems, Selectboard Chairman Peter Berger said.

The extension as passed is a year long and is designed to provide time for the Planning Commission to grant the town itself the ability to assess septic systems by revising zoning bylaws. But officials are hopeful that the bylaws will be amended much sooner than next fall, as updates would put an end to the moratorium extension.

“The program we’ve laid out intends to have a public hearing by the Planning Commission in early January,” Zoning Administrator Chris Brimmer said at Monday’s Selectboard meeting. “We pretty much know what this is going to look like. It’s really a matter of putting it together in a presentable package of amendments that the voters can look at, digest and hopefully approve.”

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation is set to wrap up a study of the Lake Morey watershed in 2024. The Selectboard has been waiting for the study to make more headway before updating the bylaws so that it can ensure data was “thorough, accurate and complete,” Berger said.

But for some, the damage of the moratorium has already been done.

“The moratorium is a waste of time,” Fairlee resident Peter Lange said at the public hearing portion of Monday’s Selectboard meeting. “Some people, their ability to make a living is in carpentry. All you do is penalize the hardworking Fairlee residents who pay their taxes and live here year-round.”

Those concerns have been heard, Brimmer said, adding that the town is “hoping to have the contracting community back up and working around the lake by the summer.”

Frances Mize is a Report for America corps member. She can be reached at or 603-727-3242.

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